The Sonoma County sheriff's deputy who shot and killed a 13-year-old boy who was carrying a toy rifle "feels for the loss of life" but responded properly to a threat, his attorney said Wednesday.

Deputy Erick Gelhaus, a 24-year veteran of the sheriff's office, "absolutely believed it was a real AK-47 and absolutely feared for his life" when he fired eight shots on Oct. 22, killing eighth-grader Andy Lopez Cruz, said attorney Terry Leoni.

Leoni gave her first statement on behalf of Gelhaus as many community members and protesters continued to express outrage over the shooting and call for the deputy's arrest, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

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