Sunday, June 15, 2014

Commemorating the 14th Birthday of Andy Lopez

An energetic life celebration and march through Santa Rosa was held on June 7 for Andy Lopez, who would have celebrated his 14th birthday earlier in the week if he had not been shot and killed by Sonoma County Sheriff's Deputy Erick Gelhaus on October 22.

Young people were abundant at the birthday celebration. Some who appeared to be not much more than elementary school aged could be seen helping organize the proceedings, with many guardians simply watching and playing more of a background role at the demonstration.

Andy's family and friends, were joined by a wide range of local and statewide supporters. Their core support comes from the Justice Coalition for Andy Lopez and Andy's Youth.

Andy's Youth is a grass roots community group comprised of young people from Santa Rosa and Sonoma County who have played a central role in organizing demonstrations. In the days after Andy's killing, the news swept across the schools, and justice for him became a crucial issue to the area's youth.

"I want to thank you guys for setting the example for everyone else," a member of the Brown Berets said to Andy's Youth at a rally at Old Court House Square held at the end of the march.

"But I want you to be very careful. When you organize in somebody's name, against the oppressive pigs, you automatically put a target on your back. That means anything you do, your friends do, will reflect upon the movement as a whole," he warned.

The advice was appropriate. As organizers, Andy's Youth have faced harassment at school from teachers and other school officials, as well as from law enforcement officers who patrol their neighborhoods.

Very little information about Andy's killing has been released by the authorities in Sonoma County, and the community continues to wait for District Attorney Jill Ravitch to announce whether there will be charges filed against Gelhaus.

What is known, is that within 10 seconds after first seeing Andy, Sheriff Gelhaus shot him seven times. In a press release issued the day of the killing, deputies claimed they first observed Andy walking with "what appeared to be some type of a rifle." After Gelhaus killed him, Sheriffs say they "learned" that the rifle was a replica of an assault weapon and not a real gun.

From an independent autopsy report, the family was able to find out how many times Andy was shot, and where the bullets entered and his body.

Bullets entered Andy's body in the following locations: his chest, his left arm, his left wrist, his right wrist, his right buttock, his right lateral buttock, and his lower back.

During the march on June 7, one demonstrator carried a mannequin that displayed precisely where on Andy's body the shots entered.

Last week, the Sonoma county Sheriff's Office announced that Michael Schemmel was the deputy who was present with Gelhaus when Andy was killed, and that he did not fire his weapon on that day.

The Justice Coalition for Andy Lopez continues to call for the indictment of Sonoma County Sheriff's Deputy Erick Gelhaus.

Autopsy mannequin

A Brown Beret elder gives Andy's Youth some advice

Andy's Parents, Sujay Cruz and Rodriho Lopez, with Jonathan Melrod

The Andy Lopez Memorial Sky lists 57 officer related deaths that have occurred in Sonoma County since 2000.

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