Community potluck on Andy Lopez's shooting anniversary

Byby Elissa Harrington KGO logo
Thursday, October 23, 2014
One year since Andy Lopez was shot
Family, friends remember the one year anniversary since Andy Lopez was shot holding an airsoft pellet gun.

SANTA ROSA, Calif. (KGO) -- A year ago, a sheriff's deputy saw someone carrying what appeared to be an assault weapon. It was not. On that day, 13-year-old Andy Lopez was shot and killed while he was carrying an airsoft pellet gun.

Friends and supporters held a community potluck on Wednesday afternoon in a park named in his honor on Santa Rosa's Moorland Avenue.

A bell rang 13 times to symbolize the 13 years of Andy Lopez's life. Students and activists gathered at a memorial rally on the Sonoma State University to mark the one year since the teenager was shot and killed by a Sonoma County Sheriff's deputy.

Lopez was carrying an airsoft pellet gun. Deputy Erick Gelhaus told investigators he thought it was an assault rifle.

What visually differentiates an airsoft pellet gun from a real gun is a colored tip. Friends say Lopez's may have been missing.

Lawmakers have since signed a bill to make it obvious when toy guns are fake.

"But unfortunately they're very small. They can be removed and it's difficult for officers arriving on the scene to make that split second decision," said St. Sen. Noreen Evans.

Evans co-authored a bill that was recently signed into law. It requires the exterior of a toy gun to be a bright color with a fluorescent band. But the law doesn't go into effect until 2016.

Evans says manufacturers and retailers were worried about losing money and needed more time to make the change.

"It is disturbing and I would hope responsible retailers would get them off the shelves, not sell them. Remove them as quickly as possible," said Evans.

Jonathan Melrod, a human rights attorney, isn't sure this is the answer.

"It's a band-aid on a very large cancer," said Melrod.

He says the real issue is police brutality, especially against people of color.

Lopez's family posted a statement on their Facebook page Justice for Andy Lopez. His mother wrote: "I love you, Andy. You live in me. I will get you justice! And someday I will be with you."