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Protest marchers demand charges against deputy in Andy Lopez death

  • Sujey Lopez Cruz talks to demonstrators on the steps of the Sonoma County Courthouse on Friday, accompanied by her husband Rodrigo Lopez. (Christopher Chung/ The Press Democrat)

One month after 13-year-old Andy Lopez was shot and killed by a Sonoma County sheriff's deputy, protesters on Friday staged another crosstown march to the courthouse, calling for the deputy's arrest and prosecution.

The rally marked the Oct. 22 slaying of Andy Lopez, who was shot as he walked down a Santa Rosa street carrying a BB gun that looked like an assault rifle. Deputy Erick Gelhaus told police he fired because he thought Lopez was holding an AK-47 rifle and was turning toward him.

But critics question whether Gelhaus gave the boy enough time to understand what was happening when he called out to him and began shooting within a matter of seconds.

On Friday, about 60 protesters marched from Santa Rosa City Hall along Mendocino Avenue to the Hall of Justice, chanting slogans and carrying signs urging Dist. Atty. Jill Ravitch to charge Gelhaus with murder.

Many accused Ravitch of taking too long to reach a decision. Some said they would picket her upcoming re-election events until they got what they wanted.

“She could arrest him right now,” said organizer Terri Carrion of Guerneville. “We want Erick Gelhaus prosecuted.”

The march up Mendocino Avenue was smaller than past rallies that drew hundreds and mostly peaceful, although it tied up northbound traffic.

Tensions flared outside the courthouse when several younger protesters broke through a police line and charged about a dozen uniformed deputies standing guard at the south entrance. Reinforcements in riot gear came out with batons in hand but there was no physical contact and no arrests.

Standing just feet away, protesters jeered the deputies as organizers urged them to stay back. At one point, Andy Lopez's mother arrived and pleaded with people to remain calm.

“It's not worth the violence,” she said over a loudspeaker. “Everyone be safe.”

Speaking in Spanish, she shared her feelings about the loss of her son. She said she would never again spend holidays with him or hug him.

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