The FBI is launching of 13-year-old Andy Lopez, a California boy shot dead by a Sonoma County sheriff's deputy who thought the BB gun the teen was holding was an assault rifle.
The Press Democrat reports that FBI officials informed command staff for Sheriff Steve Freitas and Santa Rosa Police Chief Tom Schwedhelm on Friday that an investigation would be launched into the incident. The FBI investigation will be separate from the one being conducted by the Santa Rosa Police Department.
Described as a "shooting review" by a spokesman in the FBI's San Francisco office, the agency will evaluate the “incident itself (and) the deputies' response.” Schwedhelm and Freitas said they were open to the review, but added that they were unsure of the details. “I'm sure in the coming weeks they'll be in contact with us for information and we'll cooperate fully with them,” said Schwedhelm.
As we reported earlier, Santa Rosa police say that the two deputies were patroling the neighborhood and stopped their marked police vehicle at 3:14 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon and ordered Lopez twice to put down the "air soft" gun he was carrying. Authorities say Lopez's back was turned away from them and they didn't realize how young he was. When Lopez did turn around, they saw the barrel of the gun pointed toward them. According to police, the deputies were fearful of the gun they believed was an assault rifle and one of them opened fire on Lopez.
The last time a local officer-involved shooting was investigated by the FBI was in 1997. In that case, Kuan Chung Kao was shot and killed by a Rohnert Park officer. The FBI investigation as well as a separate state and local reviews failed to find enough evidence to charge the officer.