Sonoma County Sheriff Steve Freitas today releases this statement regarding the the events that resulted in the death of Andy Lopez:
“I would again like to express my sadness about this tragedy and my deepest sympathy goes out to the Lopez family. As a father, I can’t imagine the heartache the Lopez family must be going through. In addition to the Lopez family, my heart goes out to the friends of Andy Lopez, the involved deputies, and the entire Sonoma County community during this difficult time.
“There is no simple, single answer for why this tragedy happened. We as a community need to come together to find every possible way to minimize the potential of a tragic incident like this from happening again. One possible way is California SB 199. This law, if passed, would prohibit the sale of BB devices in California unless the entire exterior surface of the device is brightly colored or the device is transparent or translucent which permits unmistakable observation of the device’s complete contents. This law extends the already existing Federal regulation that requires any look-alike, or imitation firearm (device) to have a bright orange marking affixed at the muzzle.
“As a peace officer of 30 years as well as being the Sheriff of Sonoma County, I appreciate the extensive amount of time and effort that went into reviewing the facts gathered by the primary investigative agency, the Santa Rosa Police Department, and the independent investigation D.A. Ravitch’s staff conducted.
“The Sheriff’s Office conducted an internal review of the circumstances of this incident as part of our Critical Incident Protocol. Investigators evaluated the employees’ involvement in this incident to determine if there were any actions outside the scope of Sheriff’s Office policy. This internal investigative review was recently completed and submitted to me. I have read the review which includes the investigation by the Santa Rosa Police Department. The Sheriff’s Office internal report determined that the actions of the involved deputies were within policy.
“We will now start the process of evaluating this event from a training standpoint to see if there are things we can do differently going forward, or to improve performance in general. Additionally, in March of 2013, I ordered a review of all critical incident use of firearms over the past ten years to examine if there is an additional need for training and/or equipment to better help us serve the public. This review will be evaluated by civilian use of force experts. We are hoping to have this finished near the end of this year. The final results of this project will be made public.
“Going forward, I am hopeful that through meaningful collaborative effort, we can assemble the building blocks of prevention, improved communication, and community trust and confidence in the Sheriff’s Office and our staff. The Sheriff’s Office will continue to work with the Board of Supervisors, the Sonoma County Community and Local Law Enforcement Task Force, the Sheriff’s Latino Advisory Committee, other governmental agencies, and the community. We are also regularly evaluating our training programs and policies to ensure they are legal, current, and representative of modern and progressive standards within the Law Enforcement profession as a whole.
“As Sheriff and as a resident of Sonoma County, I ask each of you to work with the Sheriff’s Office to continue to open lines of communication and join together as a community. We are first and foremost a service agency and we work for you. I reaffirm that each and every member of the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office will continue to provide quality public safety to residents and visitors alike.
“On behalf of the Sheriff’s Office, I would like to acknowledge the tremendous outpouring of public support for us and our mission. We sincerely appreciate all the phone calls, letters and personal interaction received during this pivotal time in our community.
“I want to express my support for all the men and women at the Sheriff’s Office who put their lives on the line to protect and serve us when they are confronted with split second decisions under great stress and adversity. The involved deputies have been cleared for full duty and I am working with my management staff to determine where they will be assigned to work and what duties they will be performing.
“I understand that some people in the community may not agree with the District Attorney’s decision. I value and will defend an individual’s constitutional right to free speech and peaceful assembly, to include peaceful demonstration. In prior demonstrations, the men and women of the Sheriff’s Office have shown professionalism and restraint, and will continue to do so to the best of our abilities. While we will defend the individual’s right to demonstrate, we will not condone any acts of vandalism or violence as a form of expression. We will take enforcement action to remove those responsible if this happens, so that others may continue to demonstrate peacefully.
“It is my hope that you will partner with us in furthering the healing process through continued community involvement and productive, collaborative, and respectful communication.”