By Bay City News
A protest at the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office in Santa Rosa over the shooting death of 13-year-old Andy Lopez by a sheriff's deputy a week ago ended peacefully around 3 p.m. today.
After hearing dozens of people speak, the remains of the initial crowd of more than 1,000 drifted away, some of them to Santa Rosa City Hall where some protesters intended to ask the City Council to appoint a civilian board to review officer-involved shootings.
The City Council, however, canceled its meeting this afternoon, and Santa Rosa City Hall and the Sonoma County Administration Center closed at noon because of the protest.
A funeral mass for Andy is scheduled for 5 p.m. today at the Resurrection Parish Church in Santa Rosa.
Protesters gathered at both Santa Rosa City Hall and at Santa Rosa Junior College at noon, formed one group and began marching around 1 p.m. to the sheriff's office in the Sonoma County Administration Center.
"Our Lives Are Not Your Contact Sport. Quit Killing Our Youth" one sign said. "We Are Kids Not Target Practice," another sign read.
Chants included "Andy Lopez did not have to die" and "Shame on You" when members of the crowd pointed their fingers at the more than a dozen sheriff's deputies who stood behind a barricade in front of the building and another 10 on the rooftop.
"It hurts to be up here today. It was not Andy in that casket. It was not Andy. We want justice and we're going to get justice," one speaker named Maria said.
One speaker named Mike said Santa Rosa has never seen a community react as it has since Lopez was shot seven times on Moorland Avenue in southwest Santa Rosa by Deputy Erick Gelhaus, 48, a 24-year veteran of the sheriff's office.
Gelhaus believed the airsoft BB gun Lopez was carrying, that resembles an AK-47 assault rifle, was an authentic weapon, according to Santa Rosa police, who are investigating the shooting.
Gelhaus and another unidentified deputy told Lopez twice to drop the rifle, and Gelhaus fired eight shots when the barrel of the toy gun raised upward as Lopez turned around, according to police.
"They are afraid of you. Look at what they're doing," Mike said regarding the sheriff's officers' presence on the ground and roof as the sheriff's office's helicopter circled overhead.
John L. Burris, a civil rights attorney based in Oakland, told the crowd the turnout rivaled any crowd of protesters he had seen.
"From my review of the facts, this officer should be prosecuted for murder," Burris said. "Demand accountability and results will occur," he said.
A Veterans For Peace spokesman called for the end of "today's militarized culture and society."
Some speakers called for restraint and expressed sadness at the anger and judgment they have heard before all the facts about the shooting are known.
One woman said she does not believe all sheriff's deputies are "murderers," and she urged deputies to support an investigation that determines the circumstances of Lopez' death.
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