SANTA ROSA -- Residents of a Northern California community expressed skepticism Thursday about a sheriff's deputy's decision to shoot a popular 13-year-old boy who was carrying a pellet gun that looked like an assault rifle.

Dozens of local residents and students visited the field where Andy Lopez was killed Tuesday afternoon. Some lit candles and placed flowers at a makeshift memorial that had printed pictures of the victim, stuffed animals and a balloon that read "RIP Andy L."

"It's very tragic and sad. It just happened so quick," said Noel Nunez, 15, a sophomore at nearby Elsie Allen High School. Still, he said deputies should have been able to tell the difference between a real gun and a replica weapon.

A Sonoma County sheriff's deputy twice told the boy to drop the weapon, but he instead raised it in the deputy's direction, police said at a news conference Wednesday.

"The deputy's mindset was that he was fearful that he was going to be shot," said Santa Rosa police Lt. Paul Henry, whose agency is investigating the shooting in the suburban town of roughly 170,000 people.

The gun looked just like an AK-47 assault rifle, with a black body and ammunition magazine, and a brown butt and grip. Only after the shooting did deputies realize it was a plastic replica, authorities said.

Hundreds of community members marched Wednesday night to remember the teen and protest the shooting, chanting, "We need justice," the Press Democrat of Santa Rosa reported.


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Police said two deputies were riding in a marked patrol vehicle and were in uniforms when they spotted Andy in a hooded sweatshirt and shorts about 3:15 p.m. Tuesday. His back was turned toward the deputies, and they did not realize he was a boy.

One of the deputies twice ordered Andy to drop the weapon, according to a witness, police said.