CA deputy kills 13-year-old carrying toy rifle

A California deputy shoots and kills a 13-year-old boy holding a real-looking toy gun. (Source: CNN)
A California deputy shoots and kills a 13-year-old boy holding a real-looking toy gun. (Source: CNN)

SANTA ROSA, CA (KGO/CNN) - An investigation is underway in California after a sheriff's deputy shot and killed a 13-year-old boy that he thought was carrying an assault rifle.

It turned out to be a toy. The incident happened on Tuesday.

Now, community members are questioning the official account of what happened.

It is a certain sign of tragedy, the memorial to 13-year-old Andy Lopez, gaining size by the hour in a suburban Santa Rosa field.

The controversy about how he died after being shot three times in broad daylight by a sheriff's deputy, is growing, too.

"This boy is not a criminal. He is not a criminal. He was a boy with a toy," friend Anita Ruiz said.

The two fake guns, a replica AK-47 and a fake pistol shoot plastic pellets, not bullets.

If you were a sheriff's deputy and saw one of them pointing your way after you told the suspect to drop it what would you do?

"He was the weapon in his left hand. He began to turn toward his right in the direction of the deputy," Lt. Paul Henry with the Santa Rosa Police Department said. "And so doing he moved the gun toward the direction of the deputy. And the deputy's mindset was that he was fearful that he was going to be shot."

Henry is one of the investigators on the case.

Among the witnesses he has heard from is Ismael Mondragon, who had seen the boy carrying the rifle, who warned him to put it away, and then, in his rear view mirror, he watched the events unfold.

"He pulled over to the kid just walking…to the kid walking side and he just opened the door and shot him, three shots on it," Mondragon said. "I'm like 50 feet away from them, but I'm stopping when that happens."

Mondragon said the incident took all of ten seconds.

Police investigators agree it did unfolded quickly.

In the community there is outrage.

There are accusations that young Lopez never had a chance to drop the weapon.

"He was a really good kid. He wasn't bad at all," friend Gabriel Roque said. "If he would have been told to freeze, put your weapon down, if they thought it was a weapon, he would have done that."

The sheriff's office has released no information about the deputies, except to say they are on extended leave.

But in a community where deputies have now shot and killed three people this year, the shooting of a 13-year-old boy is testing public faith, to say the least.

The Sonoma County Sheriff's Department issued a statement Wednesday from the sheriff involved saying "as a father of two boys about this age, I can't begin to imagine the grief this family is going through. This is a tragedy on many levels."

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