Police in Northern California shot a 13-year-old boy to death Tuesday after spotting the youngster walking through a residential area with a toy rifle reportedly resembling an AK-47.
According to a report in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, two Sonoma County deputies on patrol spotted 13-year-old Andy Lopez as he walked with what appeared to be a rifle in a Santa Rosa neighborhood. The deputies said that they ordered the boy to drop the toy firearm; and when he didn’t, the officers opened fire.
The Sonoma County Sheriff’s office described the incident thusly in a press release:
The two deputies repeatedly ordered the subject to drop the rifle and at some point immediately thereafter, the deputies fired several rounds from their handguns at the subject striking him several times. The subject fell to the ground and landed on top of the rifle he was carrying.
After several commands ordering the subject to move away from the rifle deputies approached and placed him in handcuffs. At this point the subject was unresponsive. After securing the rifle the deputies began administering first aid and requested emergency medical aid from fire and ambulance. The subject was pronounced deceased at the scene by the responding paramedics.
The department also provided a picture of the toy gun, which the officers involved reportedly only realized to be a replica after Lopez was shot. According to the Press Democrat, Lopez also had a toy handgun on his person when the police killed him.
After Lopez was shot, the officers said they approached the unconscious teen as he lay on the ground and handcuffed him before administering first aid and calling for medical assistance.
This incident is only the latest, and most tragic, in a long list of incidents involving panicky adults assuming the very worst at the sight of children playing with toy guns.
In September, two seventh-graders in Virginia were given long-term suspensions from school (similar to expulsion) for playing with toy airsoft guns on private property as they waited for the bus in the front yard of the 13-year-old Khalid Caraballo’s Virginia Beach home. A neighbor, ironically the mother of one of the boys playing in the “airsoft gun war,” called the cops to complain when she saw the youths wielding the orange-tipped mock weapons.
And in July, evidently tired of hearing reports of adults overreacting at the sight of anything resembling a firearm in any way or at the mention of firearms, Representative Steve Stockman (R-Texas) introduced a bill that would protect the “harmless expressions of childhood play” and disallow educators to teach youngsters to “be afraid of inanimate objects that are shaped like guns.” Stockman’s bill was named The Student Protection Act, H.R. 2625.