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Decision To Fire On 13-Year-Old Santa Rosa Boy Made In 10 Seconds

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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – Ten seconds.

That’s how much time passed after a California sheriff’s deputy reported a suspicious person to dispatch then called back to say shots had been fired.

The shots killed 13-year-old Andy Lopez on Tuesday afternoon in a blue-collar neighborhood in Santa Rosa. Police say Lopez was carrying a pellet gun that looked like an AK-47 assault rifle.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation announced late Friday that it is conducting its own investigation of the shooting, which has outraged many local residents who are demanding to know whether the shooting was justified.

More than 100 angry middle and high school students walked to City Hall on Friday, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat reported. Hundreds of people protested earlier in the week.

City police and the Sonoma County district attorney’s office are also investigating.

In a statement Friday, Sheriff Steve Freitas said he would cooperate fully with the FBI inquiry, and he expressed sympathy for the Lopez family. He also thanked the community for keeping protests peaceful.

The dispatch timeline released by the Santa Rosa Police Department showed that two deputies in a squad car encountered the hoodie-wearing Lopez just after 3:14 p.m.

Witnesses say at least one of the deputies took cover behind an open front door of the cruiser, and one yelled twice “drop the gun.”

Ten seconds after their initial report to dispatch, one of the officers called in “shot have been fired.”

Sixteen seconds later, the deputies were calling for medical help. Cruz was later pronounced dead at the scene. The Sonoma County coroner said he found seven “apparent entry wounds,” two of them fatal.

The deputies, who have not been identified, have been placed on paid administrative leave, which is standard after a shooting, officials said.

Assistant Sheriff Lorenzo Duenas told the Press Democrat that the deputy who shot the teen is a 24-year veteran and his partner, who did not fire his weapon, is a new hire.

Santa Rosa police Lt. Paul Henry told the newspaper the deputy who opened fire later told investigators he believed his life as well his partner’s was in jeopardy. The deputy said the teen didn’t comply with commands to drop the gun and was turning toward the deputies while raising the barrel.

“The deputy’s mindset was that he was fearful that he was going to be shot,” Henry said at a Wednesday news conference.

Geoffrey Alpert, a professor of criminology at the University of South Carolina, said officers are typically justified in the use of deadly force when they sincerely believe lives are at stake.

If the teen was raising the barrel of the gun toward officers, they had little choice about firing, Alpert said.

“If it’s a pink bubble gum gun and an obvious fake to most, then there is no reason to shoot,” he said. “But if the gun looks real the barrel is being pointed at you … it’s unfortunate, but a perceived threat trumps age and the officers have to protect themselves.”

Hundreds of community members marched Wednesday night to remember the teen and protest the shooting.

They covered more than three miles from Santa Rosa City Hall to the field where Andy Lopez was killed. Some lit candles and placed flowers at a makeshift memorial with printed pictures of the victim, stuffed animals and a balloon that read “RIP Andy L.”

 

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

 

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