“Andy was a child passing into adolescence,” Cazares said. “A good kid who was studying music. And with only one bullet [Gelhaus] killed him. Then he shot seven more times.”
In the weeks since the killing no criminal charges have been filed against Gelhaus, who is suspended with pay.
López’s parents, Rodrigo López and Sujey Cruz, have filed a federal civil rights suit for damages against Sonoma County and Gelhaus.
Three seconds passed between the time Andy López was accosted by officers and when he was shot, according to the suit. After López was struck down by the first bullet Gelhaus continued to fire, an eyewitness says. According to a police autopsy report, Andy López was hit by seven bullets.
A series of protest actions — including vigils at the site of the shooting, walkouts by high school and middle school students, and evening marches — have put police and politicians on the defensive in this town of 170,000 people.
Some 1,000 students rallied Oct. 29 outside the sheriff’s office, despite warnings from school administrators. “This officer should be prosecuted for murder,” attorney John Burris told the rally. He represents the family of Oscar Grant who was killed on a train platform in 2009 by transit police in Oakland.
On Oct. 30, an evening protest march calling for justice for Andy López drew 1,500 participants from all generations, many carrying signs calling for the arrest and prosecution of Gelhaus.
“The people of this community are standing together,” Raquel Morales, 37, told the Militant. “At the beginning they were trying to make it seem that it was just an issue for the Hispanic community, but Andy was one child too many.”
School bus driver Ramon Martinez said he has seen how the killing has affected students. One of his passengers, aged 13, told him she wanted to come to the protest, but couldn’t. “Please go for me,” she asked him. Martinez came with his wife Audelia, bringing flowers for Andy’s parents.
The Sheriff’s Department says Gelhaus acted in fear of his life because he mistook López’s Airsoft gun, which shoots rubber pellets and sells for about $30 retail, for a real AK-47.
Brian Bushon, 40, a delivery driver, told the crowd at the Nov. 9 rally that he found a bullet in his driveway nine doors down from where López was shot. He heard the shots shortly after returning from walking around the block with his 16-month-old son. “Just moments after we got into our house this officer unloaded his clip,” he said. “The sheriff asks, ‘What if it had been a real AK47?’ But I can play the ‘what if’ game myself. What if I had been slower getting home?”
Another neighbor, who declined to give his name to the press, said he found bullets from the sheriff’s gun lodged in his kitchen cabinet and garage when he came home the evening of the shooting.
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