A Santa Rose protest aimed at police who shot and killed a 13-year-old boy with a toy gun drew thousands of people but ultimately ended peacefully.
The protest was aimed at the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office, with a large crowd gathering on Tuesday afternoon. The were there to speak out against the killing of Andy Lopez, who was carrying a BB gun when he was shot seven times by Deputy Erick Gelhaus, who said he thought the gun was real.
Gelhaus said he and another officer told Lopez to drop the rifle, and opened fire when the barrel of the rifle lifted as the boy turned around.
Andy Lopez was laid to rest later in the day on Tuesday.
“It was tragic what they did. I don’t think it was fair. He was a good kid,” said cousin Luis Lopez, 17.
Dozens of people spoke at the Santa Rosa protest, some of them calling on city council to set up a civilian board to review officer-involved shootings. Others held signs that read “Andy Lopez did not have to die” and “Shame on You.”
“It hurts to be up here today. It was not Andy in that casket. It was not Andy. We want justice and we’re going to get justice,” one speaker named Maria said, according to the Los Angeles Times.
As the Santa Rosa protest went on, police watched from the ground and the roof of the station, and overhead a police helicopter circled.
Some speakers at the protest attributed the violence to racial tensions between the Hispanic community and police.
“There is a rift between the Latino community and law enforcement and there has been. And it’s worse now,” said Santa Rosa City School Board Member Laura Gonzales. “We really need both sides to come together and mend this.”
There had been fear among law enforcement officials that the Santa Rosa protest could escalate into rioting, and police were prepared with barriers. But at close to 3 pm the protest began to break apart, with members filtering out of the area peacefully.