A 13-year-old boy from California carrying a replica of an assault rifle was shot and killed by a policeman who believed the gun was real.

The child, identified as Andy Lopez and described in media reports as popular in his school, was walking down a street in Santa Rosa on Tuesday on the way to visit his best friend when sheriff's deputies saw him carrying what appeared to be an assault weapon.

They ordered him to drop it and "and at some point immediately thereafter, the deputies fired several rounds from their handguns at the subject striking him several times," according to a statement from the Sonoma county sheriff's office.

"Once the scene was secured deputies learned that the rifle was a replica of an assault rifle," the statement said.

Lieutenant Paul Henry, who is investigating the incident, told the Reuters news agency that one of the deputies shouted at the boy twice: "Put down the gun".

"The subject turned toward the deputies, and as he was doing that the barrel of the weapon was rising toward the deputies," Henry said. The deputy then fired rounds, killing the boy.

"As a father of two boys about this age, I can't begin to imagine the grief this family is going through," said the statement from Sonoma County Sheriff Steve Freitas.

The officers involved in the shooting have been placed on administrative leave, which is standard procedure, and the
incident is being investigated by the Santa Rosa Police Department and other law enforcement agencies, officials said.

The incident took place in a day after a 12-year-old boy killed a teacher at a Nevada middle school with a gun he also used to take his own life.

There is growing concern about officer-involved shootings in California, where a spate of such incidents in the city of Anaheim, southeast of Los Angeles, prompted protests in 2012.

Source: Agencies