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Lasting Legacy

Two years later, Andy Lopez's death spurs youth empowerment

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The death of Andy Lopez, on Oct. 22, 2013, brought national attention to Santa Rosa. Hundreds of people protested the shooting. Local political leaders called for calm and promised action. The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors promised to build a park in the empty field where Lopez was killed. They dedicated the park to him and created a 21-member task force to make recommendations for civilian oversight of the sheriff's office.

These actions did not stop the outpouring of grief and anger. The protests intensified after Sheriff Steve Freitas announced that the shooting did not violate any of the department's policies or procedures, and District Attorney Jill Ravitch declared the shooting lawful and did not indict the shooter.

It has been over two years since that tragic shooting. The healing that community leaders talked about has not happened. The passage of time may have helped some, but it hasn't helped the young people who knew Lopez.

Andy Lopez Cruz was a popular and outgoing kid with a big smile. His friends came together immediately after he was shot. They organized marches and protests in Santa Rosa and demanded justice. As the weeks and months passed, their protest energy dissipated and they never reached their goal. They disbanded.

But recently, neighborhood youth came together again. Community organizer Jess Perez, who last year received the Sonoma County Peace & Justice Center's "Unsung Hero" award, asked local youth if they would be interested in helping design the new park. The youth stepped up. They formed a steering committee and recommended the park have a theme: youth and neighborhood empowerment.

Andy's friends, more than most, realize that Lopez was a disempowered kid living in a disempowered neighborhood. They never found healing. But now, two years later, neighborhood youth are again active. They are calling for a park where they can do homework after school, receive tutoring if needed, practice music and form groups for empowerment and support. Hopefully, the Andy Lopez Park will come to represent youth and neighborhood empowerment.

Chris Wroth and Francisco Siaz on the steering committee for the Andy Lopez park.

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