Revelations are flying in Vallejo that police have lost or discarded key evidence. As a result, on Friday Speaker Nancy Pelosi called on the FBI to investigate the shooting of Sean Monterrosa. After turning down several calls for an independent investigation, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has finally agreed on Friday to take on the investigation as well.
While most of the council seems to be backing the mayor and police department, one sitting councilperson, a candidate for mayor, is speaking out.
Robert McConnell on Friday strongly criticized the department with the revelation this week that important evidence—the window of a police vehicle involved in the fatal police shooting by Vallejo police of 22-year-old Sean Monterrosa—was discarded.
McConnell, a longtime councilperson and Vietnam combat veteran, has been highly critical of the troubled Vallejo Police Dept., which fired five rounds through the windshield and killed Monterrosa June 2 at the beginning of nationwide protests against police killings of Blacks and people of color.
“Upon hearing from our city attorney that persons currently unknown have caused the replacement of the pickup windshield, I was livid,” said McConnell in a statement released this weekend. “It is both a violation of the California Penal Code and an independent personal wrong, actionable under the law. It also is an invitation to higher damages in a situation where the City of Vallejo is involved. Investigation of this needs to be swift, complete, and result in repercussions.”
His statement follows a statement of concerns from Speaker Pelosi and AG Becerra.
“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.”
“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.
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.
“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 said.
Robert McConnell has been heavily critical of the handling of this case by local and state officials.
“Recently the local district attorney declined involvement in the investigation of this and the related death of an individual along with not investigating a second death situation,” McConnell said. “The state Attorney General’s Office likewise declined, instead passing the matter back to the local district attorney. That leaves the public and the City of Vallejo in a situation where nothing will happen unless the City of Vallejo pays the bill for an independent investigation by a private, non-governmental company that has no criminal charging abilities.
“This is just wrong on so many levels,” he added, calling for an independent state agency to be able to investigate such cases. “What this inaction by elected officials shows is the absolute need for a state agency totally independent of local law enforcement to be created by state legislation.
“The Department of Consumer Affairs already investigates concerns of wrongful actions on everything from a nail salon to a surgeon. Surely they can do the same with law enforcement. The State of California already has the independent Administrative Law Courts who hear cases from both involved sides concerning alleged wrongful conduct. It is not asking much to have this approach extended to all local and state involved claims of excessive police force and denial of civil rights.”
McConnell added, “Couple the state involvement with the ability of the state agency to license and discipline law enforcement and we take away from the local jurisdictions, including a county district attorney, the difficulty of having their own personnel be placed into a position where they have to investigate and discipline their coworkers, friends, and friendly witnesses.”
He concluded: “Give the state agency the right to control what is taught in the police academies. License the police academies as we do with medical and law schools. Take it out of city hall, local law enforcement agencies, the local DA, the state AG, and away from whom you know, you work with, and whether they like you. This is not complex. We are not inventing the wheel all over. The state models already exist. How about it, state legislators? Make it happen.”
The profile of this case has escalated in recent weeks.
On Friday, Senator Bill Dodd, who represents Vallejo in the State Senate, added his thanks to Speaker Pelosi, stating, “We need an thorough INDEPENDENT investigation & it should start ASAP. The FBI should also investigate the destruction of evidence (the patrol car windshield).”
—David M. Greenwald reporting
To sign up for our new newsletter – Everyday Injustice – https://tinyurl.com/yyultcf9