SANTA ROSA (CBS SF) – Investigators Wednesday afternoon released new details about the shooting death of a 13-year-old boy by Sonoma County sheriff's deputies south of Santa Rosa on Tuesday afternoon.
Andy Lopez Cruz was carrying a fake gun that resembled an assault rifle along Moorland Avenue north of West Robles Avenue around 3:15 p.m. when two deputies pulled over to confront him, according to Lt. Paul Henry of the Santa Rosa Police Department, which is handling the investigation.
Andy was carrying the gun in his left hand at his side as he was walking, Henry said. At a news conference this afternoon, Henry displayed the gun Andy was carrying alongside a real AK-47 assault rifle.
Andy's gun had a thinner barrel that was 6 to 8 inches shorter than the real rifle and was colored differently but was missing the orange plastic tip that typical differentiates a fake gun from a real one.
After spotting Andy and stopping their marked patrol car with the top rotating lights activated about 20 to 30 feet from him, the deputies called for backup, sheltered behind the open car door and ordered Andy to "put the gun down," Henry said.
Andy, wearing a blue hooded sweatshirt and shorts, was walking with his back to the two deputies. After they yelled the order, he started turning around and as he did one of the deputies said he saw the barrel of the gun rising and turning toward him, according to Henry.
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The deputy, fearing for his safety and knowing that style of gun could penetrate body armor, the metal exterior of the patrol car and the walls of the houses nearby, fired several rounds at Andy, striking him at least once, Henry said.
Andy immediately fell to the ground. The deputies approached him and handcuffed him and realized he was unresponsive. They then began life-saving measures and called for medical assistance, Henry said.
Andy was pronounced dead at the scene.
Christina Avila of Santa Rosa, whose daughter was a classmate at Lawrence Cook Middle School with Andy, attended Wednesday's news conference and said she was not satisfied with the police explanation.
"Why couldn't they just shoot him in the leg?" she asked. "We don't know why they had to take it to the extreme."
She said she didn't hear a provocation for the shooting in the police narrative. "It's natural for someone to turn towards someone when someone yells at you," Avila said.
Andy lived only about a half-block from the shooting scene and had four siblings, an older brother and sister and a younger brother and sister, according to Avila.
She said that in the rural neighborhood, children having pellet guns is not unusual.
Thirteen-year-old Maglay Bejaran, a friend of Andy's, said she saw him about 5 minutes before the shooting. She said he was going to a friend's house, and she saw he had a plastic thing in his hand, but she couldn't tell what it was.
Maglay said Andy was a good person, and that, "It's sad how he was innocent and they just shot him."
The gun he was carrying was capable of shooting plastic projectiles, according to Henry. Andy was also found with a clear plastic fake handgun tucked in his waistband that did have the orange plastic tip on the barrel indicating it was not a real gun.
Henry said that Andy had been asked to leave school that day but did not elaborate why.
"It's a tragic event no doubt for the family, the community and the deputies," Henry said.
This morning, Andy's friends posted mournful messages on his Facebook page. "Bye Andy R.I.P." one friend wrote.
Grief counselors and therapy dogs were on hand at Cook Middle School Wednesday morning, school principal Linsey Gannon said.
"Our community is very shaken by this tragedy," she said. "He was a very popular student."
Andy was also a talented musician who played the trumpet, Gannon said.
"He was a handsome young man with many friends and a lovely family. He will be missed," she said.
Gannon was unable to confirm reports that Andy had just transferred to another school last week.
The deputies involved in the shooting were placed on administrative leave while Santa Rosa and Petaluma police and the Sonoma County District Attorney's Office investigate the incident.
Sonoma County Sheriff Steve Freitas issued a statement Wednesday promising to do everything in his power to ensure the investigation into the shooting would be "thorough and transparent."
"As a father of two boys about this age, I can't begin to imagine the grief this family is going through," he wrote. "This is a tragedy on many levels…for the terrible loss of Andy Lopez, his family, the family's loved ones, friends, our community and the members of the sheriff's office."