Hundreds of friends, neighbors and supporters of slain 13-year-old Andy Lopez, who was killed by police officers last week after they mistook his pellet gun for a real weapon, protested his death during a peaceful march through Santa Rosa on Monday.
Protesters chanted, “Andy Lopez did not have to die,” in advance of the boy’s funeral, which was scheduled for 5:00 p.m.
Riot police stood by, ready to intervene if the crowd turned violent. The protesters remained civil, though several carried signs informing the police of their culpability in Lopez’s death.
At the time he was killed, Lopez was bringing a pellet gun to his friend’s house. The fake gun had none of the distinguishing features of a typical pellet gun, leading two officers who encountered Lopez to believe that the the eighth grader was armed. They ordered him to drop his weapon, and when he turned to face them, one of the officers — 48-year-old Erick Gelhaus — opened fire. (RELATED: Awful: Cali police kill 13-year-old boy armed with only a pellet gun)
Gelhaus is an Iraq War veteran, firearms expert and blogger, according to NBC News. He wrote for SWAT Magazine and recommended having a “Mean Gene.”
A lawyer for Lopez’s family said Gelhaus should be tried for murder.
“This officer should be prosecuted for murder … clearly this was murder,” said lawyer John Burris in a statement to USA Today.
Gelhaus and the other officer have been placed on administrative leave while the Santa Rosa police department investigates.