SANTA ROSA, Calif. — A Northern California community is anguished over the fatal shooting by deputies of a popular 13-year-old boy who had been carrying a pellet gun that looked like an assault rifle.
Sonoma County sheriff's deputies repeatedly asked the boy, Andy Lopez, to drop the weapon, but instead he raised it in their direction, officials said at a news conference Wednesday.
Only after the shooting did deputies realize the gun was a replica that looked strikingly similar to a real AK-47 assault rifle.
Residents of Santa Rosa, a suburban town of roughly 170,000 people about 50 miles northwest of San Francisco in California's wine country, were shaken by the boy's death. Many expressed their grief by leaving candles, teddy bears and flowers at the edge of the field where the teen was shot Tuesday afternoon.
Some community members wondered whether the deputies acted appropriately when they decided to fire on such a young person.
"I'm sure you can tell he's a 13-year-old boy," Abrey Martin told KGO-TV. "He's not some maniac."
Andy, an eighth-grader who played trumpet in his school band, was described as a bright and popular student, liked by many in his community, including Lawrence Cook Middle School assistant principal Linsey Gannon.
"Andy was a very loved student, a very popular, very handsome young man, very smart and capable," Gannon said Wednesday. "Our community has been rocked by his loss."
Members of law enforcement expressed sympathy, too.
In a statement, Sheriff Steve Freitas said the shooting was a "tragedy" and that he would do everything he could to ensure that the investigation was thorough and transparent.