By GUY KOVNER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, has pledged to pay for the materials used to restore the fire-damaged memorial to Andy Lopez, the 13-year-old Santa Rosa boy fatally shot by a sheriff’s deputy in October.
Levine, whose district includes the Moorland Avenue neighborhood where Lopez lived and died, said he was impressed by the community effort that rebuilt the tent-covered shrine that includes flowers, mementos and photos of Lopez.
Levine, who was at the scene for about 90 minutes, said he was asked to help and agreed to pay for the materials — as soon as the receipts are totaled — from a campaign fund.
Levine is seeking re-election this year to a second term in the state Legislature.
“I can’t think of a better way to spend the money,” he said.
A volunteer at the site Sunday said that a local building supply store gave them a “big discount” on materials to rebuild the memorial on a 1-acre lot at Moorland and West Robles avenues.
The makeshift shrine was scorched by a fire early Thursday attributed to candles burning in Lopez’s memory.
Lopez was walking along a sidewalk on the east side of the lot on Oct. 22 when he was shot by Deputy Erick Gelhaus, a 24-year Sheriff’s Office veteran. Gelhaus told police he thought the boy’s airsoft BB gun — which looked like an AK-47 assault rifle — was a real weapon.
Levine said Monday that a bill aimed at preventing such deadly mistakes will be heard by the state Senate Public Safety Committee on Jan. 14. The bill, called the Imitation Firearm Safety Act, would require BB, pellet and airsoft guns to be brightly colored or translucent so they would not be mistaken for the real thing.
State Sens. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, and Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, jointly announced the legislation on Nov. 22 in Santa Rosa, along with Assembly co-authors Levine, Wes Chesbro, D-Arcata, and Mariko Yamada, D-Davis.
Levine said Monday he will work to pass the measure when it reaches the Assembly in February. He also sent a letter Monday expressing his condolences to Sujey and Rodrigo Lopez, the boy’s parents.
“As a parent, I cannot imagine the pain that you must be experiencing at the loss of your beloved son Andy,” the letter said.
“While none of us can make sense of this tragedy, it is appropriate and decent that we long remember him and celebrate his life through a memorial built in his name.”