SANTA ROSA, Calif. – Northern California sheriff's deputies have shot and killed a 13-year-old boy after repeatedly telling him to drop what turned out to be a replica assault rifle, sheriff's officials and family members said.
Two Sonoma County deputies on patrol saw the boy walking with what appeared to be a high-powered weapon Tuesday afternoon in Santa Rosa, sheriff's Lt. Dennis O'Leary said.
The replica gun resembled an AK-47 with a black magazine cartridge and brown butt, according to a photograph released by the sheriff's office. Deputies would only learn after the shooting that it was a replica, according to O'Leary. It was not clear whether it could fire projectiles such as pellets or BBs.
Rodrigo Lopez identified the boy as his son, Andy, to a newspaper and said the young teen was carrying a toy gun that belonged to a friend.
After spotting the boy, the deputies called for backup and repeatedly ordered him to drop the gun, O'Leary said in a news release. It wasn't clear whether he pointed the replica assault rifle at the deputies or made any type of threatening gesture. The sheriff's office referred calls to the Santa Rosa Police Department, which scheduled a 3 p.m. news conference to address the shooting.
O'Leary said the deputies fired several rounds from their handguns immediately after issuing the orders to drop the rifle.
A neighbor in the area, Brian Zastrow, told the Santa Rosa Press Democrat (http://bit.ly/1eJymxx ) he heard seven shots.
"First, I heard a single siren and within seconds I heard seven shots go off, sounded like a nail gun, is what I thought it was," he said.
The boy fell to the ground on top of the rifle, according to O'Leary. He said the deputies ordered him to move away before approaching him and putting him in handcuffs.
They began administering first aid and called for paramedics, who pronounced him dead at the scene. Deputies also found a plastic handgun in the boy's waistband, O'Leary said. The deputies, who have not been identified, have been placed on administrative leave, which is standard after a shooting, O'Leary said.
Community members left candles, teddy bears and flowers at the edge of the field where the teen was shot and questioned deputies' decision to open fire.
"I'm sure you can tell he's a 13-year-old boy," Abrey Martin told KGO-TV. "He's not some maniac."
In a statement, Sheriff Steve Freitas said the shooting was a "tragedy" and he would do everything he could to ensure the investigation was 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 said.
Rodrigo Lopez told the Press Democrat he last saw his son Tuesday morning.
"I told him what I tell him every day," he said in Spanish. "Behave yourself."
The family was back at their mobile home Tuesday night after identifying the boy's body, the Press Democrat reported.
The newspaper quoted the boy's mother, Sujey Annel Cruz Cazarez, as saying, ""Why did they kill him? Why?"
Andy Lopez had recently attended Lawrence Cook Middle School, where assistant principal Linsey Gannon said he played trumpet in the band.
"Andy was a very loved student, a very popular, very handsome young man, very smart and capable,"' she said Wednesday. "Our community has been rocked by his loss."