Authorities — both in law enforcement and education — have been focused intensely on kids with firearms in the wake of several high-profile school shootings. A recent incident in Sonoma County, Calif., however, has some people wondering if the methods of dealing with such possibilities is too extreme.
When two deputies saw a 13-year-old boy with a replica rifle, they were understandably suspicious. At some point, however, Sonoma County Sheriff’s Lt. Dennis O’Leary confirmed the subject was shot and killed by authorities.
According to his father, Rodrigo Lopez, the boy was playing with his friend’s toy gun when officers noticed him. Pending an investigation, there was no immediate evidence that the child, identified by his father as Andy, threatened deputies or raised the fake firearm in their direction prior to the shooting.
The authorities opened fire immediately after commanding Andy to drop his weapon, O’Leary said; and a neighbor reported hearing a total of seven shots.
While everyone understands that a job in law enforcement is inherently dangerous and often requires split-second reactions, the original report raises serious questions about the way this event was handled.
“I’m sure you can tell he’s a 13-year-old boy,” one neighbor said. “He’s not some maniac.”
O’Leary confirmed that deputies placed Andy in handcuffs before he was pronounced dead at the scene.
Andy’s assistant principal described him as “a very loved student, a very popular, very handsome young man, very smart and capable.”
No one could have imagined that a quick outing with a toy gun would have led to his untimely death — least of all his mother.
“Why did they kill him?” she asked. “Why?”
The deputies have been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation, O’Leary confirmed. Meanwhile, a community mourns the loss of one of the next generation’s rising stars.
Certainly, more details will emerge regarding the events leading up to this tragic shooting. As part of an overall national debate, however, this is yet another incident highlighting the extremely emotional reaction many have toward guns in general.
An unfortunately large percentage of Americans now view anyone with a firearm a criminal, regardless of his or her intent.
–Western Journalism staff writer
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