Armed With A Toy Rifle, Killed By Real Bullets

Andy Lopez Cruz: dead before he really had a chance to live.

It’s Wednesday and time to discuss something other than yet another Obamacare-is-gonna-kill-your- mama story or whatever stupid thing Kanye West said when he woke up.

Something that happens far too often.

SANTA ROSA, California (Reuters) – No more than 10 seconds elapsed from the time sheriff’s deputies spotted a 13-year-old California boy carrying what they thought was an assault rifle and the moment they shot him dead, only to learn afterward the gun was a plastic replica, police said on Thursday.

It took 16 seconds more for the two officers to call for medical assistance, according to the time line of events released by police investigating Tuesday’s shooting in Santa Rosa, a suburb in northern California’s wine country.

Andy Lopez Cruz, wearing a hooded sweatshirt, had been on his way to a friend’s house clutching the imitation gun designed to shoot plastic pellets, police said. He died at the scene. A toy handgun also was found tucked in his pants.

An autopsy performed on Thursday found seven bullets struck the boy, and that two of the wounds were fatal. Investigators believe a total of eight rounds were fired by one of the two deputies who confronted the youth.

But the tragedy has reignited calls in the community for creation of civilian review boards to examine such incidents.

“People have to do something,” said Elbert Howard, a founding member of the Police Accountability Clinic and Helpline of Sonoma County. “He’s a child, and he had a toy. I see that as an overreaction to shoot him down.”

An advisory panel of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission urged Sonoma County to create civilian-review boards in 2000 following eight fatal officer-involved shootings in less than three years, but that recommendation went unheeded.

As many as 200 mourners gathered on Thursday around a makeshift memorial consisting of flowers, balloons, teddy bears and pictures of the boy at the site of the shooting.

Some held candles and signs that said: “What a tragedy, what a travesty.”

Cruz and his the AK-47 airgun that looked too real.

What could justify gunning down a 13-year-old kid walking down the street because he had the misfortune to carry a toy gun that looked too real?

Fear? A siege mentality? A sugar rush from one too many jelly donuts? Another minority kid wearing a killer hoodie?

Point of fact: Andy Lopez Cruz wasn’t a gang-banger.  Wasn’t a thug.  Wasn’t a criminal.  He was a 13-year-old kid carrying a TOY gun and one that wasn’t “real looking”

Kid walking down the street carrying a toy gun that kind of looks like the real deal, but isn’t. Cops roll up, tell the kid to drop it and then what? Lie down on the ground? Put his hands in the air?

Doesn’t matter. He turns around–in response to the cops–and gets shot down. That’s the end of Andy Lopez.

So what’s the moral of the story here? Better to err on the side of caution? Shoot first and ask questions later?

How about maybe cops need better training on how to discern a real gun from a fake one because it can’t be excused as just “a very tragic accident” every time a citizen with an air-gun in his or her possession steps outside their door and ends up getting popped and dropped?

The FBI has taken an interest…

Santa Rosa has been rocked by the event, with hundreds marching on Wednesday to protest the shooting of “an innocent young boy,” as one sign read. The deputies, who have not been named, are on leave while the incident is investigated, and the FBI announced on Saturday that they’re conducting an independent investigation of the incident.

The shooting is the latest in a long line of incidents of police shooting — and sometimes killing — people whom they have mistakenly thought to be armed with a real firearm. Last year, police fatally shot a Texas eight-grader who was carrying a pellet gun that resembled a black Glock. The year before, Miami police shot and killed a 57-year old man who had a realistic replica gun after getting 911 calls about the ostensible weapon. “This is not the first time,” says Karen Caves, spokeswoman for a California state senator who has pushed stricter regulations on imitation firearms. “It happens every year.”

…but I’m not surprised more people aren’t. After all, it’s not as if Andy Cruz was twerking or riding on a wrecking ball buck naked or something important like that.

Family members mourn the slain teen.

Being thirteen doesn’t make you a little boy. It makes you an eighth-grader and still too young to drive a motor vehicle, sign legal documents, drink a beer or legally buy a gun.

Being thirteen should mean you get the benefit of the doubt that you’re NOT a spree shooter or a kid killer, but Andy didn’t get that benefit of the doubt.

Not that he needs it any longer.

The cop in Charlotte who put ten bullets in Jonathan Ferrell said he feared for his life.  Here’s a thought:   If these cops are so full of fear should they even be cops in the first place?

Some will worry about the state of mind of the two deputies and how will they sleep after this.  I’m more concerned a boy is dead and he shouldn’t be. Nor am I particularly upset if the lives of the cops will never be the same. They still have their lives and will as likely as not suffer any real repercussions for their mistake. They won’t lose their jobs. They won’t lose their freedom. They probably won’t even lose any pay.

Andy Cruz lost his life. Where is the concern for him? I’m not indifferent to how the cops feel, but they have lost nothing compared to what they have taken.

I don’t take the officers at their word because they are human beings and when human beings royally fuck up as in this case they can handle it one of two ways:

1. Oh shit! I royally fucked up. I had better come clean and own this with a complete and honest account of what happened.

2. Oh, shit! I royally fucked up. I had better cover this up and lie my ass off with a totally bullshit story of what happened.

This is not me saying the cops are lying.   This is me saying under stress human beings fuck up. They miss important details. They forget. They think something was black when it was actually white. If “fight or flight” is a natural response to dangerous situations, “come clean or cover my ass” is also a natural response to dangerous situations.

Until I know more about what happened and why Andy Lopez Cruz is dead, I am not assuming good intentions on the behalf of the police officers because long before they were cops, they were still human beings.

No matter what the facts turn out to be they will still be child-killers and nothing can change that.

Mourning and anger in the wake of Cruz’s death (Photo: Reuters)