(Saturday Morning Update) On Friday evening, Attorney General Xavier Becerra issued a statement announcing that the California Department of Justice (DOJ) is stepping in to investigate the alleged destruction of evidence by the Vallejo Police Department (VPD).
“The allegations concerning destruction of evidence under the watch of the Vallejo Police Department are significant,” said Attorney General Becerra. “For public trust to exist, each and every part of our criminal justice system must operate in cohesion and there’s little room for error. That’s why we’ve accepted Chief Williams’ request to take a look at what happened with the evidence and relay our findings to the District Attorney’s Office for review.”
He continues: “The bottom line is that law enforcement across the country are rightly coming under the microscope and they have to get these things right if there’s going to be a chance to rebuild trust. Make no mistake: we’re going to be thorough — and that includes in our separate review into the Vallejo Police Department’s policies and practices. Our communities, particularly Black Americans and people of color during this time of social upheaval, deserve to know that we are listening and doing our part to take action.”
On July 15, the City of Vallejo announced that the windshield from the VPD vehicle involved in the June 2 officer-involved shooting of Sean Monterrosa had been destroyed and that the vehicle was placed back into service. As a result, the city also announced that an employee has been placed on administrative leave. DOJ has agreed to work to ensure that the destruction of evidence is fully and objectively investigated.
The investigation being announced today is separate from DOJ’s ongoing review of VPD’s policies and practices. As part of that agreement, DOJ is working with a team of its own police practices experts to develop best practices specifically for VPD and will independently evaluate their implementation efforts. The agreement between DOJ and the City of Vallejo and its police department is currently in effect for a period of three years.
(Previous Article) The account of the shooting of Sean Monterrossa has been gaining speed and controversy, with allegations now that evidence may have been destroyed. For the first time on Friday, it got raised to a national level as Speaker Nancy Policy issued a statement calling for an FBI investigation into the shooting of the 22-year-old in early June.
“The police killing of Sean Monterrosa was a horrible act of brutality that continues to shake our Bay Area community. Recent reports that key evidence in the investigation was destroyed are deeply disturbing and highlight the urgency and necessity of an outside, independent federal investigation,” said Pelosi on Friday, who represents San Francisco in Congress.
She said, “I join Sean’s family, Vallejo city officials and community members in calling for an FBI investigation into Sean’s murder, including into the destruction of essential evidence in this homicide case. We must insist on justice and accountability to honor Sean’s life and the lives of all killed by police brutality in America.”
She added, “Sean’s killing highlights the urgent need for the Senate to pass the House-passed George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which will fundamentally transform the culture of policing in America as it saves lives.”
Attorney John Burris, representing the family, was skeptical of the FBI’s involvement. “We don’t know who is going to do it that’s for sure,” he said. “We don’t know who is going to do the investigation.”
The DA has asked the AG in California to do the investigation.
“Now we’re playing who’s on first,” Burris quipped. “Leaving us in a suspended state of animation, not knowing who is going to do what.”
Last week, Vallejo finally released the video of the June 2 shooting, but Burris believes that, given the lack of footage of the actual shooting and missing video, the video must have been tampered with or discarded.
“The destruction of the evidence is such an outrageous act that I can understand and support the notion that the justice department should come in here, the FBI,” he said. “The FBI is controlled in my mind by Bill Barr. Who has not shown a lot of inclination in my mind of investigating the police, so that might be a hollow effort.
“Whether or not they do an investigation remains to be seen,” he seen.
Burris did say, “The important part is that it brings more attention to the issues around Sean Monterrosa and Willie McCoy, both of which were outrageous police acts.
“It at least brings a lot more attention,” he said. “I just hope its not fool’s gold, bringing high expectations that something’s going to happen and the FBI does like they did in the Senate hearings around Kavanaugh.”
Last week Burris expressed surprise at the lack of video footage, especially in light of initial comments from the police chief.
“He said that he saw Sean running, stopping, kneeling down as if he was trying to surrender and he got shot,” Burris said. The chief purportedly said, “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
“That certainly suggests there was a video,” he said. “Today he said, there’s no video. His description was that Sean was running, he kneeled down in a crouching position, as if he was going to attack the police—who were in front of him in a pickup truck.”
They of course found the hammer, of which Burris pointed out, “They didn’t have any concrete evidence he was armed. Certainly not enough to justify the use of deadly force.
“It’s pretty shocking and very disturbing,” he said. “It’s disingenuous on the part of the police.”
He was particularly alarmed that the chief was describing the video early and “now he says there was no video.”
“The question is, what information did he have that allowed him to make the statement that he made early?” he asked.
What was also alarming is what was not shown in the video. “We didn’t see him running,” he said. “We didn’t see him go to the ground. We didn’t see any preliminary steps that were made by the boy before he was shot.
“It was a sham on the part of Vallejo PD,” he said.
For Pelosi, she said, “May Sean’s memory be a source of strength to all as we seek justice in his name. May it be a comfort to his family and loved ones that so many in our city mourn with and pray for them during this devastating time.”
—David M. Greenwald reporting
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