Mourners wearing white honor Andy Lopez at visitation service
Published: Sunday, October 27, 2013 at 4:31 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, October 28, 2013 at 7:51 a.m.
A father's wail rose Sunday above the drumbeats in a room full of people come to mourn Andy Lopez, the Santa Rosa middle-schooler shot dead by a sheriff's deputy last week.
“My son, my beautiful son,” cried Rodrigo Lopez during the viewing service held Sunday at a Windsor mortuary and attended by more than 1,000 people.
And a mother's grief kept Sujey Lopez bent over her son's open casket, her arms cradling her son's face for more than eight hours during the day-long visitation.
Andy Lopez was walking on Moorland Avenue in southwest Santa Rosa last Tuesday afternoon carrying a BB gun designed to resemble an AK-47 when he was shot by a deputy who mistook the airsoft gun for an assault rifle.
Investigators said the deputy told them that after he ordered Lopez to drop the weapon, the boy turned toward him and the gun barrel rose, prompting the deputy to fire.
The killing has ignited an outpouring of grief and anger and daily marches that have been equal parts memoriam and protest against the actions of the deputy.
Sunday's scene was one of overwhelming sorrow cloaked in white. Hundreds of mourners had worn that color at the request of Sujey Lopez to, she said, “represent the angel that he is and was.”
Lopez was born in Sonoma County; his parents came to the area about 20 years ago from the northern Mexican state of Sonora.
Described as a handsome fun-loving boy, Lopez grew up in the Moorland Avenue neighborhood in southwest Santa Rosa, attending Bellevue Elementary School and Cook Middle School, where he played trumpet in the band until transferring last week to Lewis Opportunity School.
Only about 150 people at a time could fit in the room at the Windsor-Healdsburg Mortuary on Old Redwood Highway where the service was being held. A long line of people, many carrying white carnations, many of them young and wearing T-shirts bearing Andy Lopez's photograph, waited to pay their respects.
They filed through the hall throughout the day, placing flowers on the casket. Parents held toddlers close. Teens in white shirts with Lopez' photo walked arm-in-arm.
The casket was surrounded by flowers and enlarged photos of Andy Lopez. In one photo Lopez wore his characteristic beanie hat and in another he saluted the sky. In a third, Lopez beamed from the back seat of a car, wearing a pink vest and tie.
At one point, Rodrigo Lopez appeared to try to pull his 13-year-old son's body from the casket and a crowd of family and friends rapidly drew in to enclose and comfort him.
As Sujay Lopez leaned over her son, family friend Maribel Barragan, 34, of Santa Rosa rubbed Sujay Lopez' back and fanned her face. A conch shell sounded and Aztec drums pounded, reverberating through the room.
Sonoma County Supervisor Efren Carrillo, in a white shirt, bowed his head as Aztec dancers fanned incense on Lopez' parents, huddled around the casket.
“This has been tragic and devastating, words cannot describe ...” Carrillo said after the service. “There is no pain greater than that of a parent losing a child, and I say this not having the experience of being a parent.”
Outside, members of Danza Nanahuatzin formed a circle and danced with rattles and feathered headdresses.
Andy Lopez' close friend, Luis Diaz, 13, kept close watch and an arm around his slain friend's little brother, 7-year-old Randy Lopez. Many in attendance marveled that the dimpled second grader, the spitting image of his older brother, brought his brother's happy spirit to the somber service.
Diaz said Sunday's was the first visitation he had attended, and he was focusing on “all the good times we used to have.”
“We hung out every day together,” Diaz said of his best friend.
Some people said they came even though they didn't know the family.
Nearly two hours into the service, Felipe Almendaris of Santa Rosa appeared outside and shouted “Si, se puede” through a bullhorn — “Yes, we can.” He called for justice.
Although the crowd outside clapped briefly, Almendaris' outburst seemed to sit uncomfortably with the mourners.
But the scene outside was largely quiet. Small groups of teens spoke to one another. Parents bounced babies. A steady line of people waited to step inside.
Alma Yanez of Santa Rosa who lives three blocks away on Moorland Avenue, said she and other neighbors have been dropping off food and running errands for the family.
“It feels like it happened yesterday,” said Yanez.
Barragan, who had been inside tending Lopez' mother, stepped outside to take a break, wiping her eyes. “I can't believe it. I have known this boy since he was little.”
Selina Gonzalez, 14, stood in a circle of friends who had made their own T-shirts at a mall kiosk to memorialize Lopez. They'd used photos and messages such as “rest in paradise” and “one more angel.”
“It's really sad,” said Gonzalez, who attends Comstock Middle School and was a neighborhood friend of Lopez's. “This is the last time I will get to see him.”
Staff Writer Jeremy Hay contributed to this report. You can reach Staff Writer Julie Johnson at 521-5220 or email@example.com. On Twitter @jjpressdem.
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