source: The Press Democrat
published: 22 October 2018
Five years and one day ago, Andy Lopez was a 13-year-old boy who cracked jokes, loved food and embodied all that comes with being a middle school boy in Santa Rosa, the second child of an immigrant family.
After his sudden death on Oct. 22, 2013, his name took on a new life beyond the Moorland Avenue sidewalk where he was shot and killed by a Sonoma County sheriff’s deputy who fired at him after mistaking the boy’s airsoft BB gun for a real AK-47 assault rifle.
The once-empty lot where Lopez died has been transformed from a ragged, weed-infested plot into Andy’s Unity Park with landscaped gardens, a skate park and playground.
It has a permanent memorial to Lopez with photos from his short life encased in glass that Monday night were lit with candles to memorialize the five years since his death.
If it is five years or 10 years that has passed, this date will be important and so sad,” said Gloria Hernandez of Windsor, a friend of the Lopez family. “It was very cruel, what was done to him.”
His death generated a yearslong reckoning on police-community relations in Sonoma County that continues today, one that tested the leadership of then-Sheriff Steve Freitas and led the county to install a first-ever independent watchdog to review Sheriff’s Office policies and internal investigations.