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Sheriff vows thorough, transparent investigation into fatal shooting

  • Sonoma County Sheriff Steve Freitas, shown in a 2010 file photo. (JOHN BURGESS/Press Democrat)

One day after a deputy shot and killed a 13-year-old boy holding a BB gun that resembled an AK-47 assault rifle, Sonoma County Sheriff Steve Freitas vowed that the investigation into the fatal encounter would be thorough and transparent.

Freitas, who has two sons around the same age as the boy who was killed, said he “can't begin to imagine the grief” of Andy Lopez's family. Freitas said the fatal shooting was also devastating to the two deputies involved in the incident, as well as personnel throughout the Sheriff's Office.

“It is pretty somber around here today,” said Freitas, seated in his office Wednesday afternoon.

Fatal Deputy-Involved Santa Rosa Shooting

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Tuesday's shooting prompted simultaneous investigations. The Santa Rosa Police Department is leading an external investigation, aided by Petaluma police, that will be reviewed by the Sonoma County District Attorney's Office.

The Sheriff's Office also launched an internal investigation on Tuesday night when the two deputies involved in the incident were debriefed, both to determine their mental health and to start the internal review process.

Both deputies who confronted Lopez on Moorland Avenue Tuesday were placed on paid administrative leave, Freitas said. Only one deputy fired shots at the boy, according to Santa Rosa police.

That leave could last weeks or months, depending on how long the internal investigation takes and what it reveals. The two deputies are also both seeing mental health professionals, and the duration of leave will depend on the outcome of that process, Freitas said.

Freitas issued a statement Wednesday that stated Tuesday's shooting was “a tragedy on many levels ... for the terrible loss of Andy Lopez, his family, the family's loved ones, friends, our community and the members of the Sheriff's Office.”

During an interview in his office, Freitas reaffirmed that statement and said he couldn't discuss any details about what occurred Tuesday or answer questions about the investigation.

“I don't know exactly how, but at some point I want to try to work with the community to prevent this from happening again,” Freitas said.

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