Remembering Andy Lopez: Pain Lingers 8 Years After Shooting Death of 13-year-old

From her second-floor window, Concepción Dominguez Galvan watched the neighborhood children play in the open field right next to her home in Moorland, then an unincorporated area of Santa Rosa.

She got to know them well and grew fond of a little boy with light-colored eyes named Andy Lopez. “I would see him and his family around the neighborhood, he was about one year old,” she said. “He was so cute, running around the field and chasing his siblings.”

Some years later, Galvan and the Cruz-Lopez family became neighbors, and she grew even fonder of him. “He was a playful child, full of joy,” she said. “In the evenings, Andy was usually outside, chasing their dog, Coco, around the block.”

On Oct. 22, 2013, Andy, 13 years old, was shot eight times by a Sonoma County sheriff’s deputy while walking down Moorland Avenue towards his old house, holding a toy rifle. Seven of those shots pierced his body.

Photo courtesy of Concepción Dominguez Galvan

His death was a shock to the community and was even more difficult for those who knew Andy well. “I couldn’t believe it,” Galvan said. “To me, he was a good kid. He did not deserve to die like that.”

She recalls going to a park on Hearn Avenue, crying and gathering the strength to go see Andy’s mother. “I didn’t know what I could do to support her,” she said, “but I knew that I needed to be there for her.”

The day after Andy’s senseless murder, community members started to gather and protest. “It gave my goosebumps, seeing how many people had come out to fight for justice for him.”

For the children who grew up alongside Andy, his death was deeply impactful.

Melissa Ortiz, 21, met Lopez in the second grade at Bellevue Elementary, where she was the new kid at school. “He was one of the very first people that befriended me,” she said. They soon became inseparable.

She recalls how playful he was. “When I think of him, one of the first things that comes to mind is how goofy he was,” Ortiz said. “He was the class clown, always trying to make people laugh.”

Although known to be playful, she says he also knew when to be a supportive friend. “At a very young age, he was always a good listener,” she said. “He could sense when something was wrong and would ask if everything was OK.”

As they grew older, their friendship became stronger, and “around the 4th grade, we passed notes to each other and told each other we had a crush.” They became childhood sweethearts. “He was so thoughtful,” Ortiz said. “I don’t think he showed that side to everyone, because he was known as the class clown; but he was super sweet, sunny and loving.”

When Ortiz went to school the day after, she had no idea what had occurred to her best friend. “I didn’t know what everyone was talking about until one of my friends told me that Andy had been killed by a sheriff, and that first second, I couldn’t even react, I didn’t know what to think.”

His loss had a profound impact on her young life, and it’s difficult for her to talk about it to this day. “As a kid, I struggled but I still had hope,” she said. “After losing Andy, I looked at life differently; that bright lens that I saw the world through was tainted.”

She continued, “He was my best friend, the person who I could talk to. I was still so young, and after he was killed, I realized how brutal and real life is.”

Although Ana Salgado did not know Andy Lopez, she was drawn to attend the protests because of the youth who did know him and were grieving.

“There were so many kids there, many with their parents, who said they had gone to school with Andy,” Salgado said.

Photo courtesy of Melissa Ortiz

According to Salgado, the students had walked out of school to protest outside of the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office, and the atmosphere was tense. “I was surprised at how they received us, they had officers ready like we were going to attack,” she said. “I was worried that there would be another incident, because the youth had a lot of questions and a lot of rage. We [the adults] were always trying to protect the kids at the marches, while also trying to create a conversation between them and law enforcement. We tried, but it never happened.”

This year marks the eighth anniversary of Andy’s death, and despite some changes following several years of protest, the feeling of loss is still strong. “A lot of us who knew him still sit with so much sadness and pain,” Galvan said.

In 2018, after fighting the case all the way up to the Supreme Court, Sonoma County settled a Civil Rights lawsuit brought by Lopez’s parents, for $3 million. The county and the Sheriff’s Office did not admit any wrongdoing.

Erick Gelhaus, the deputy who shot Lopez, has never faced criminal charges in the case.

A park memorializing Lopez now sits in the area where he was killed, aptly named the Andy Lopez Unity Park.

“A space to honor him is wonderful, but it’s not enough,” Galvan said. “We want to see justice for him—a child is dead, and to this day we can’t understand why.”

Salgado and Galvan, along with other community members, help put together a yearly vigil on Oct. 22, remembering Lopez. “We try to keep it in people’s minds so that they don’t forget what happened in that park,” Salgado said. “We gather to remember Andy, in his neighborhood, where he grew up and played.”

While Galvan has many memories of Andy, there’s one she often remembers when thinking about him. She often saw Andy and his siblings in the mornings, waiting for the school bus.

“Sometimes he was late, and he would come out of his house with his shoelaces untied, trying to catch the bus. When he missed it, his mom would take him to school, and I could tell that he loved those moments alone with his mom, her love all to himself,” she said, her voice choking with emotion.

“He was a really sweet kid who loved his mother so much. I just have that image of him dragging his shoes as he ran towards the bus.” She paused for a moment. “It’s something that still makes me smile to this day.”

On Friday, Oct. 22, a memorial will be held for Andy at the Andy Lopez Unity Park, from 5–7pm. The event is open to the public.

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