Vallejo, CA – The latest in a long series of officer-involved shootings in Vallejo led to an angry march and demonstration on Saturday, as a crowd of what appeared to be more than 500 people came to show support for 22-year-old Sean Monterrosa who was shot and killed last week by Vallejo police.
Official reports say that officers were responding to a looting call, and Monterrosa, just 22, was on his knees when the officer who killed him thought he had a gun. It turned out to be a hammer.
“It appears that Sean Monterrosa had essentially surrendered,” legendary Civil Rights Attorney John Burris, who has represented victims like Monterrosa for nearly half a century, told the Vanguard last week.
“He went down voluntarily to his knees and was in the process of putting his hands up when the officer saw what he said appeared to be a gun and shot him. The officer was not out of the car, Shawn was not chasing him, not threatening him.
“Looting is not a justification for the use of deadly force,” he added. “It’s just property.”
The anger boiled on Saturday—but despite the police in riot gear, and snipers at the ready, it did not boil over.
“These families have been screaming at the city council meetings for ten years,” Attorney Melissa Nold, a Vallejo resident who also works in Burris’ office, told the crowd. “If you notice none of our city council, mayor, they’re not here with us.
“They don’t come because they know they’ve turned their backs on us,” she said. She recounted another shooting from 2012, Mario Ramirez. “If they would have stood up and done the right thing in 2012, and not waited until 2020, Sean would still be alive.
“We’re here now and never again on my soil, on the city where I was born and raised, will we allow another man to be beaten up, murdered on our f-en watch,” she said.
Nold also told the crowd that they have a petition to the DA to turn over the videos. “She’s not going to charge these murders,” she said. “On Monday morning we need everyone to call District Attorney Krishna Abrams in Fairfield. Last year we saw her flying a Blue Lives Matter flag, that tell us she doesn’t give a f- about us.”
Nold noted that Abrams has recused herself from this case.
Adante Pointer, also in Burris’ office, said “there have been too many black and brown men that have bled on these streets.” He said, “(The police) have gotten a free pass.
“This is the outrage that they caused. This is the hurt that they caused. This is the pain that they caused,” he said. “There have been too many names. I have been suing the Vallejo police department since 2005.”
He described the incident from 2005 where police tackled and injured a 77-year-old military vet as he walked across the bridge. A caller phoned the police claiming that the man was dangling a kid over the bridge.
“The police officer, rather than walking up and asking him a question, or seeing what was going on, in the field tackled him and broke his damn shoulder,” Pointer explained. “He wasn’t doing anything. He was unarmed. Seventy-seven years old, a person who put his life on the line for his community and for our country, a military vet. The police department looked the other way.”
He read off the list and proclaimed that “we’re done looking the other way.”
Michelle Monterrosa and Ashley Monterrosa, the sisters of Sean, spoke as well and thanked everyone for coming out.
Looking at the line of police officers, Michelle proclaimed, “What if this was your son?
“My brother did not deserve to be murdered,” she said. “We lost our only brother.
“My brother’s last words was to sign a petition for George Floyd to get justice,” she said.
John Burris also addressed the crowd.
“This is what’s absolutely needed. We are at a very critical time here where it’s not only a moment but a potential movement,” the long time attorney said. “All of you can participate in this movement to hold police accountable. To reform them so that they understand that they’re not an island onto themselves. That they are accountable to each and every one of us.”
Burris called for the shooting video to be released immediately. Under current state law, the police have 45 days to release the video of an officer-involved shooting. But they have the discretion to release it earlier.
“We also know that they’re not required to wait 45 days,” Burris said. “It’s up to the police department itself to release it when they can, when they want to. It is up to us, to demand that the video (coverage) be released immediately. If there was nothing to hide, then release it.
“We know from police statements, that Sean was on his knees,” he said. “When you’re on your knees with your hands up, that is surrendering. That is not a basis to shoot and kill him.
“It is fundamentally wrong to shoot someone who is trying to surrender,” he said.
Last week John Burris told the Vanguard this is “an historical moment,” which he said “is brought about by the consequence of what has taken place.”
The Attorney General’s office for the first time has agreed to investigate the Vallejo Police Department’s pattern and practices.
“I have been dealing with this AG’s office now for several years trying to get them to focus in on Vallejo… and no response,” Burris explained.
But “another shooting takes place” and “for whatever reason they decided this was the time to get involved” and, while he realizes it is political, “nevertheless it is important that the move has taken place.”
Burris said he was not sure specifically what this entails other than it “is an expansive review of department practices,” where they will be looking for “any pattern or practice of unconstitutional violations.
“That’s a broad term but that’s the language we use when we look at pattern and practice cases,” he said, where they look to see if there is any ratification of misconduct, whether or not the use of force is consistently within the Constitution, whether traffic stops are handled consistently, and whether the department’s policies are up to date.
The “pattern and practice” is the term of art for the US Department of Justice’s chief tool for accomplishing police reform—determining whether the department in engaging in a systemic violations of the Constitution in their policing with regard to use of force, traffic stops and other police misconduct.
—David M. Greenwald reporting
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