A 13 year old boy is shot and killed while holding a replica rilfe. Now, as Jodi Hernandez reports, his family mourns, while trying to figure out what to do next.
Outrage is taking over a slice of the Northern California city of Santa Rosa, where deputies shot and killed a 13-year-old boy carrying a replica assault rifle that they thought was real.
Two more "Justice for Andy" community vigils are planned for Thursday evening, two days after Sonoma County sheriff's deputies killed Andy Lopez, an 8th grader and trumpet player, near a field a few blocks from his home.
Many in the typically quiet town 50 miles north of San Francisco, which was voted among the Top 10 "happiest cities" this year, are incensed. They're angry that the two deputies couldn't have found another way, other than shooting him, to convince Andy to drop the airsoft rifle -- which shoots BBs and looks remarkably similar to a real AK-47 -- when they spotted him near a field Tuesday about 3 p.m.
"We need justice, we need justice," chanted the hundreds of people who attended a vigil Wednesday night, and are among those who have been signing into a "Justice for Andy" Facebook page.
"This ain't right," Ethan Oliver said. "There has to be another way, other than excessive force."
Andy, who attended Lawrence Cook Middle School, didn't drop the weapon and they fired off seven bullets, according to the sheriff, who provided details at a Wednesday news conference. Andy fell to the ground, which is when they realized his gun wasn't real. Another toy handgun was found in his waistband.
Many in town, including Andy's parents, are insisting that Andy was the type of boy to listened to police. But other witnesses also said they heard police order the boy to drop his weapon.
Ismael Mondragon told NBC Bay Area that he saw Andy moments before he was killed with the gun in his hand. Mondragon said he warned the boy to get rid of such a real-looking weapon.
"I saw him with that rifle in his left hand," Mondgragon said. "And I said, 'Throw that thing away, the police are right behind you.' "
But Andy still had the rifle in his hand at 3:14 p.m. when deputies spotted him at Moorland and West Robles avenues.
The deputies hit their sirens and called for backup. Then, according to Sheriff's Lt. Dennis O'Leary, the deputies "repeatedly ordered the subject to drop the rifle."
Initially, officers said Andy’s back was toward them, but as they ordered him to put down the weapon they said he began to turn toward them. The deputies said they feared for their life and fired "multiple" rounds at Andy.
Sonoma County Sheriff Steve Freitas himself sent out a personal statement on Wednesday, saying he had two boys about the same age as Andy and "can't begin to imagine the grief." He vowed to be transparent in releasing information about the shooting as the investigation unfolds.
Still, that Andy wouldn't heed police orders is a mystery to those who loved him.
"I sense that he did obey orders," his father, Rodrigo Lopez, said in Spanish.
Other community members also stood behind the boy.
"He was not a gang member, he was an 8th grader," said Anita Ruiz, whose son was friends with the victim. "He was not a criminal, but yet he's dead. He's 13 years old. Couldn't something else have been done?"
Nicole Guerra, another mother whose son was friends with Andy, could barely contain her emotions.
"He's not the kind of boy that would resist," she told NBC Bay Area, wailing and gasping as she tried to articulate her thoughts. "He wanted to go to college and do something with his life. He would not have resisted. No way, no way. He's not that kind of boy."
The "Justice for Andy" rallies were scheduled for Thursday evening in Santa Rosa.
NBC Bay Area's Chase Cain and Cheryl Hurd contributed to this report.