Teenage Boy Carrying Replica Rifle Killed by Police

[Content Note: Guns; police brutality; racism. Video begins playing automatically at link.]

Andy Lopez, a 13-year-old boy from Santa Rosa, California, was shot and killed by police Tuesday night, after they saw him walking down the street with a replica assault rifle and, according to their own report, repeatedly told him to put it down and he refused.

Lopez's parents, the parents of his friends and classmates, and school administrators all say that he was not the kind of kid who would have pushed back against police.

And even by the police's own account, this doesn't sound like a kid who was resisting, as much as a kid who was shot before he even had a chance to respond to what was happening:
The sheriff's department outlined the basic facts from the agency's point of view. Two deputies patrolling near Moorland and West Robles avenues in Santa Rosa about 3 p.m. spotted a "male subject" carrying what appeared to be an assault style rifle, similar to an AK-47 assault rifle.

The deputies hit their sirens and called for backup. Then, according to O'Leary, the deputies "repeatedly ordered the subject to drop the rifle."

Initially, officers said the subject's back was toward them, but as they ordered him to put down the weapon they said he began to turn toward them. The department issued this statement:
"One of the deputies described that as the subject was turning toward him the barrel of the assault rifle was rising up and turning in his direction. The deputy feared for his safety, the safety of his partner, and the safety of the community members in the area. He believed the subject was going to shoot at him or his partner. The deputy described that he is aware an assault weapon of this type is capable of firing a bullet that can penetrate his body armor, the metal exterior of his car, and the walls of the residential houses behind him. The deputy then fired several rounds from his service weapon at the subject, striking him at least one time."
The deputies still commanded Lopez to move away from the rifle, the sheriff's statement read, but at this point, he was "unresponsive." Deputies handcuffed him, administered First Aid and called for medical help.

But it was too late. Andy was pronounced dead at the scene.
Other information provided in the news report: Andy Lopez was wearing "a blue hoodie."

Information not observed in the news report: Andy Lopez was a young man of color.

There are people who will say: What were the cops supposed to do? And, on the one hand, I understand that. We live in a culture where children of Lopez's age can get access to deadly weaponry and in which some of them commit deadly crimes. Right now, one of the major news stories is the murder of a high school teacher allegedly committed by a 14-year-old student. Police understand as well as or better than anyone that teenagers are capable of harm.

On the other hand, the kid was carrying a toy gun. And it sounds like all he was doing was turning around to see who was talking to him when police asked him to put it down.

If the majority is going to agree that we're all going to live in a culture in which there a fuckton of guns, and it's considered acceptable for kids to play with plastic replicas of those guns, and we're definitely not going to enact any kind of gun control even after a bunch of mass shootings, some of which were carried out by kids, then we also need to be realistic that those decisions mean that kids are going to die.

Because police are scared for their own safety, which is yet another consequence of our failure to take action on guns. Additionally, there is increasingly little public expectation that law enforcement agents risk their lives to save other people, even people suspected of being perpetrators, so we defend their right to shoot anyone anytime they have reason (or not) to feel scared.

And, you know, I think it matters that the people who tend to end up dead because cops felt scared, because those people didn't instantly respond to police instruction in the way that was anticipated, are young men of color. Who are, culturally, stereotyped as perpetrators of gun violence.

Truly, at this point, if you don't support meaningful and comprehensive gun reform, you do support the occasional killing of innocent people, including children, as an acceptable cost of unfettered gun ownership. That is a price no decent person should be willing to pay.

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