For the past week have been trying to understand. Comprehend. Make sense of. Rationalize. Grasp. And Figure out why a 14 year old boy’s life was taken by a local Sheriffs Deputy. I have been following the news, which honestly doesn’t begin to offer coverage that resembles what I know, I have read and I have heard. For the past week I have been so confused and conflicted. I have relived every aspect of my training and asked myself over and over, again. And again. Would I have done the same? Would I have felt my life was being threatened enough to use excessive force? But each time my answer was the same. No. It was a young boy, wearing a hoody. A year younger than Buckaroo. Most likely wearing ear buds and not paying much attention to his any of surroundings. I know this because Buckaroo does the same. Yes the young boy was carrying an air-soft gun, a replica of an assault rifle. Buckaroo has a BB gun and a paintball gun. I wouldn’t allow him to walk to a friend’s house. That doesn’t mean he wouldn’t do it anywaysWe live in a “good” neighborhood, on a “good” part of town. But I don’t want to believe where we live is only difference?
The photo was from earlier today. When I went on a run I saw the helicopters flying over the scheduled demonstration. And I burst into tears. For the first time in a week I was able to make sense of the confusion I have been feeling. It doesn’t matter how I have been trained. It doesn’t matter where I choose to work. It doesn’t matter who I know or the opinion I am supposed to have. I am a mother first. So what would have been 8 miles in the books, turned out to be 4.2 miles. I made it home as fast as I possibly could, jumped in my truck and drove to the demonstration.
I didn’t stay long. But long enough to pay my respects and show my support. As a mother who has a young boy. And nothing else.
I feel better. I understand why it took me a week to realize I am a mother first. And that’s okay it shows me I have been trained well.
I will leave you with an article so very eloquently written about the tragedy. The author seems to have been inside my head for the past week.
Gullixson: A death that drives us to our knees
Did a little piece of orange plastic cost 13-year-old Andy Lopez of Santa Rosa his life?
Rather, was it a missing piece of plastic — one about the size of a fingertip — that was the difference?
You know what I’m talking about, those plastic “muzzle” caps that go on the ends of toy guns to make it clear that they are not the real deal. The caps have been required under federal law for 25 years, mandated since the late 1980s to stem a rising tide of crimes being committed with toy guns.
Thus, BB guns like the one Andy was carrying as he walked down a sidewalk toward a friend’s house in southwest Santa Rosa at 3:14 p.m. on Tuesday are required to come with plastic caps.
But it wasn’t there when the young man turned toward two sheriff’s deputies who had pulled up behind him.
And now Andy isn’t here either.
Whether it was a piece of plastic or something else, what we do know is that the difference in this life-or-death moment was something small.
A turn of the body. The raising of a gun barrel. A twitch of a finger on a trigger.
And it all happened in the course of 10 seconds. Ten tragic seconds.
That was all the time, according to a chronology of events released by Santa Rosa police Thursday, that elapsed between the moment the deputies called dispatch to report a suspicious person with a rifle to the time they called back to report shots being fired.
We seem to know so much about what happened in that span of time — about how the deputies called for Andy to “put down the gun” at least twice, about how he apparently didn’t obey and instead turned toward them, and about how one deputy, believing lives were in danger, fired eight rounds, striking him seven times.
And yet there’s so much we don’t know. For example, is it possible that Andy wasn’t aware that the two deputies had pulled up behind him? Is it possible that when they called, he didn’t know it was two members of law enforcement who were giving the order? Even so, is it possible he didn’t know they were talking to him? After all, in Andy’s mind he was carrying an airsoft rifle, a toy — not a gun.
I’m familiar with young teens. There are days I can look my 14-year-old straight in the eye and he not only doesn’t hear me, he seems oblivious to my whereabouts.
Furthermore, is it even possible that Andy didn’t hear them? Police say he was wearing a hoodie sweatshirt. But was the hood up? Did he have earbuds on and, like so many teenagers, was he unaware of what was happening around him?
As is evident, I’m struggling to understand why Andy Lopez didn’t put down the gun. I’m struggling to understand why companies make these stupid things in the first place.
These guns are so authentic looking they too often end up being held aloft at police news conferences, side by side with a real weapon, as part of an explanation as to why somebody is dead — and how the slim difference between real and fake is to blame struggle to understand why America has more gun-related deaths than any developed country in the world and why children and young adults (24 years of age and under) are involved in 38 percent of all firearm-related deaths and injuries.
It’s all enough to bring us to our knees.
But as with so many people who have been participating in vigils and marches in Santa Rosa since Tuesday, I’m also having a hard time understanding why the deputy felt so threatened that he had to pull the trigger — eight times.
After all, it was not as if they had evidence that this suspicious person with his back to them presented a clear and present danger. He was not walking toward a crowd of people. The
deputies were not responding to a report of a dangerous person firing an assault weapon in the area.
Residents of that area in fact are used to seeing young men with airsoft rifles roaming the open fields. Andy was killed beside a large undeveloped lot where, in the spring, the grass grows so tall that it’s a fun place for children to run and hide — and play with BB guns. Were the officers not familiar with that?
I certainly understand why the deputies stopped and called for the young man to put down his gun. What I don’t understand is why Andy is dead.
As police described it, the deputy fired because, as Andy turned “the barrel of the assault rifle was rising up and turning in (the deputy’s) direction.”
Was that enough to take a life? Why is it always “shoot-to-kill” anyway? Wouldn’t this have been a good time to show force that was less than lethal?
I know I shouldn’t second-guess. I’ve never worn a badge. I’ve never been in that situation. And given all the gun violence — and cable coverage of it — there’s good reason for police and the rest of us to be on edge. Yet, as I wonder why the one deputy fired his weapon, I also can’t help wondering why the other didn’t.
Maybe we will find out someday. Two investigations, one internal, one
being overseen by Santa Rosa and Petaluma police, are now underway. But knowing the history of these things, I’m
doubtful we will ever get the full story of what happened in those 10 seconds, primarily because the one person who has the most to say can’t speak for himself.
And we’re all struggling with that.
Paul Gullixson is editorial director for The Press Democrat.
Here is the link to the local paper if you are interested in reading more about the tragedy.
I am off to prepare dinner, we are having enchiladas, everyone’s favorite. Then go to be early. Its been a tough start to the week, but I do know, it will get better.
Until next time, always be true to yourself and think like a boss!