FBI to Investigate Deputy's Killing of Santa Rosa Teenager

Andy Lopez, shot and killed by a Sonoma County sheriff's deputy earlier this week.
Andy Lopez, shot and killed by a Sonoma County sheriff's deputy earlier this week.

Also on KQED's News Fix: Hundreds Protest Police Killing of Santa Rosa Eighth Grader

Update, Friday 11:45 p.m.: The FBI says it's investigating Tuesday's fatal shooting of 13-year-old Andy Lopez by a Sonoma County sheriff's deputy. Sheriff Steve Freitas announced the FBI's entry into the case in a brief press release Friday evening. The Santa Rosa Press Democrat reports this statement from the FBI in San Francisco:

A spokesman in the FBI’s San Francisco office called the agency’s inquiry a “shooting review,” looking into the “incident itself (and) the deputies’ response.”

“We’re going to look into the facts of that,” said Peter Lee, a public affairs specialist with the bureau. “It’s a civil rights-type of case.”

Among the prominent issues in the case is a timeline released Thursday by Santa Rosa police, who are also investigating the shooting. That account shows that only 10 seconds passed between the time two deputies first reported spotting Lopez, who was carrying a replica assault rifle that was actually a pellet or BB gun, and the time they reported shots fired. The deputies had pulled up behind Lopez and, according to police and sheriff's accounts, and in that 10 seconds, they called for backup, took cover behind their open car doors, and warned Lopez twice to put down his gun. Police say one of the deputies, a 24-year veteran of the department, opened fire when the teen turned around. The deputy fired eight shots with his service weapon, hitting the eighth grader seven times. The second deputy did not open fire.

Lopez died at the scene of the shooting.

Lopez's death prompted yet another protest in Santa Rosa on Friday, with hundreds of students marching to the sheriff's office and other locations.

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The Santa Rosa Police Department issued a statement Thursday on coroner's findings in the fatal shooting earlier this week of 13-year-old Andy Lopez by a Sonoma County sheriff's deputy. Police say eight shots were fired in the encounter and an autopsy found Thursday the boy had been hit seven times. The statement also includes a timeline that indicates only 10 seconds passed between the time dispatchers recorded a "suspicious person" report from deputies — who had spotted Lopez carrying what turned out to be a BB gun that resembled an assault rifle — and the moment one of the officers opened fire.

The killing has provoked anger in Santa Rosa, and for the second night in a row hundreds of people marched to protest the shooting Thursday evening.

The Santa Rosa Press Democrat reports the deputy who killed Lopez is a veteran officer:

The deputy ... is a 24-year veteran of the force, Assistant Sheriff Lorenzo Dueñas said Thursday.

His partner, who did not fire his weapon, was a new hire to the Sheriff's Office with 11 years of experience in law enforcement and was in a period of training, Dueñas said.

Dueñas declined to release the deputies' names and said they were investigating a series of threats made to the deputies' lives.

The Police Department gave this account of the preliminary autopsy findings:

On Thursday, October 24, 2013, the Sonoma County Coroner’s Office conducted an autopsy of Andy Lopez Cruz. The autopsy was performed by Dr. Arthur Josselson with the Forensic Medical Group. The examination was attended by investigators
from the Santa Rosa Police Department and the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office. Final autopsy results will not be available for several weeks. The following preliminary information can be released.

There were seven apparent entry wounds discovered in the body. Two of the wounds were determined to be fatal wounds. One of the bullets that resulted in a fatal wound entered the right side of his chest. The second fatal wound was caused by a bullet entering the right hip. There were non-fatal wounds on his right wrist, left bicep, right forearm, right buttocks and right hip. Three bullets were recovered in the body.

Investigators believe that a total of eight rounds were fired at the scene. Four rounds were recovered at the scene and three rounds were recovered in the body.

On Wednesday, Santa Rosa police Lt. Paul Henry issued a narrative of the incident that said the deputies spotted Lopez, called for backup, then pulled up behind the boy. Both deputies then exited their vehicle while taking cover behind the car's doors. Henry's statement continues:

One of the deputies shouted at the subject to, “put the gun down.” A witness in the area reported that he heard the deputy shout two times to “put the gun down.” Initially, the subject’s back was toward the deputies. When the deputy shouted at the subject, the subject began to turn toward the deputies. One of the deputies described that as the subject was turning toward him the barrel of the assault rifle was rising up and turning in his direction.

That deputy said that he feared Lopez was about to begin shooting, so he fired "several rounds," causing Lopez to fall to the ground. The police account emphasized the similarity between the replica rifle Lopez carried, which lacked a bright-orange barrel tip common on toy weapons, and a real AK-47.

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The Santa Rosa police timeline of the incident suggests the deadly episode evolved very rapidly: After the deputies spotted Lopez, dispatchers "created an incident of a suspicious person" at 3:14:15 p.m. — that is, 15 seconds after 3:14 p.m. The deputies issued a call for backup four seconds later, at 3:14:19 p.m. They reported "shots fired" just six seconds after that, at 3:14:25 p.m., and emergency medical attention was called after another 16 seconds, at 3:14:41 p.m. Here's the verbatim account from the Santa Rosa police:

  • 1514:15 hrs – Sonoma County Sheriff’s Dispatch created an incident of a suspicious person in the area of Moorland Ave. and West Robles Ave.
  • 1514:19 hrs – The Deputies call for emergency assistance from other Deputies in the area
  • 1514:25 hrs – The Deputies notify dispatch that shots have been fired
  • 1514:41 hrs – Emergency medical advised to respond to the scene

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