Andy Lopez was just another 13-year-old walking through his neighborhood on Moorland Avenue in Santa Rosa, on his way to a friend's house to return his toy gun. When he heard someone from behind yell to him, he began to turn around to see who it was. Instead, he was pumped full of bullets, killed in plain daylight by deputy Erick Gelhaus, who continued to shoot after the boy fell to the ground.
According to the autopsy, which showed the bullets' trajectories, Andy Lopez was only halfway turned around before he was shot from behind. According to witnesses, Gelhaus didn't identify himself as law enforcement. And according to the sheriff's own time stamp, the whole incident—from radioing in a suspicious person with a gun, to radioing back that shots had been fired—took just 10 seconds.
Andy Lopez didn't have a chance.
Marches, vigils and actions have been a weekly occurrence since, and you can't walk a hundred yards in southwest Santa Rosa without seeing "Justice for Andy" painted on a car window. In other parts of town, though, things aren't so tumultuous. The Santa Rosa Police Department is as close as ever with the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office, and is tasked with the "outside" investigation. District Attorney Jill Ravitch is tasked with reviewing that investigation, despite being cozy as can be with Sheriff Steve Freitas—the two spoke at each others' campaign kickoff events. A nearly all-white, middle-aged grand jury will likely dutifully stamp the results.
Lopez's death caused us all to "have a conversation" in 2013. But with 27 officer-related fatal shootings that have occurred since 2000, and with Gelhaus back at work and likely to be cleared of any wrongdoing, it's time to stop talking and start acting to change a system that allows such tragedies. At the very least, Ravitch should voluntarily recuse herself from reviewing the investigation of Frietas' department—a clear political conflict of interest. Better yet would be for the formation of a civilian review board to oversee officer-related shootings, which has long been recommended for Sonoma County and is currently being studied by a task force. If it could stop even one innocent 13-year-old from being killed, it would all be worth it.
THE ELECTEDS' MUSICAL CHAIRS
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A barrage of political candidacy announcements marked the second half of 2013 as local politicos revved up for an election year. After State Sen. Noreen Evans announced that she would not seek re-election in 2014, Sonoma County Supervisor Mike McGuire launched a bid for her state Legislature seat. (A "leaked" poll of 400 registered North Coast voters shows McGuire with a significant lead over the other two candidates, for whatever that's worth.)
It wasn't long before potential candidates began vying to take over McGuire's position. Those entering the fray include James Gore, a former senior official in the Department of Agriculture under President Obama. A Sonoma County native with wine industry ties, the 35-year-old recently moved back to Healdsburg with his wife and daughter, announcing his candidacy soon afterward. Environmentally minded Windsor councilwoman Deborah Fudge will make her third attempt at supervisorial seat, as will lively, rampant Press Democrat commenter Keith Rhinehart, former Healdsburg mayor Pete Foppiano, and Healdsburg city councilman Tom Chambers.
In Santa Rosa, former Press Democrat columnist Chris Coursey announced a run for a seat on the Santa Rosa City Council. If he wins, he'll leave behind a long journalism career for public office, leaving his loyal readers to sigh and cheer at the same time. Shout out to Erin Carlstrom for bringing her new baby to city council meetings and providing inspiration to working moms everywhere—and a brickbat to the misogynist troll who wrote that Carlstrom should "stay at home with her first child." This was also the year that the 31-year-old attorney, who's served less than a year on Santa Rosa City Council, announced that she would run for State Legislature . . . oh wait, no, never mind . . . make that the 10th District assembly seat, currently held by Marc Levine, who last year unseated Michael Allen. Carlstrom hasn't made the official announcement yet, but maybe this one will stick.—Leilani Clark
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Rohnert Park residents rejoiced this year when the long-awaited casino opened on the outskirts of town. Not because there would finally be a form of entertainment other than miniature golf or theater in the city, but because the $800 million gambling mecca has a top-notch taqueria.
The 34,000-square-foot casino is fun and all, but the real draw is La Fondita. The Santa Rosa eatery was hand-picked by tribal chairman Greg Sarris to open another outlet of its popular Roseland restaurants inside the casino. With the incredible response to the opening of a Chipotle restaurant in Rohnert Park (diners sometimes waited upwards of an hour in line), it was obvious that RP residents were in desperate need of a real burrito.
Yes, the casino was a source of controversy for over a decade before it was even built, and traffic was terrible on opening day,
Nov. 4. But the delicious tortas were worth the wait, as a full parking garage and packed gambling floors littered with drips of crema and guacamole will attest. It's a mainstay, and even if Amy's Kitchen does open a healthy fast-food establishment down the street, it won't make a dent in La Fondita's business. A healthy chorizo chimichanga is one that I don't ever want to meet.
And if a strip mall or two opens across the street with a Taco Bell or a Baja Fresh, so be it. Station Casinos bought all the land adjacent to the casino it bankrolled, and it can lease the space to whomever it likes. You know why La Fondita doesn't give a shit? Because their tacos are the shit—the best little meat bombs a tortilla has ever had the honor of transporting to a mouth. And the elote? That's no gamble, that's a sure bet for deliciousness, corn-teeth be damned. Rohnert Park has changed forever, no thanks to the smoky, flashy, loud, money-sucking sensory blitz of the Graton Rancheria Casino, but to the beautiful, rich, spicy carne asada contained within.—Nicolas Grizzle
THE INTERNET LOTTERY
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Out of the thousands of things we post online every year, we're never completely sure what's going to capture the imagination of the public at large. But in the case of a mid-July post about a newscast, we at the Bohemian captured eyeballs worldwide. In a post titled "KTVU Reports Asiana Pilots Named 'Sum Ting Wong,' 'Ho Lee Fuk,'" we had the somewhat dubious honor of being first to break the news that KTVU anchors had messed up really, really bad. In just one day, we'd amassed 250,000 views; the post would go on to break the half-million mark by the end of the week. What can we say? People all over the world like racist news bloopers.—Gabe Meline