Bowing to pressure as well as the state law, Vallejo has finally released the video of the June 2 fatal shooting of 22-year-old Sean Monterroa, a San Francisco man, at the hands of Vallejo police officers.
Attorney John Burris, representing the family and many supporters, is angry because the video is fairly limited and does not show Monterrosa or what he was doing when the officer shot him from the back seat of the police car.
The police claimed that they thought he was kneeling and getting into a shooting position—but the suspected gun was actually a hammer tucked into Monterrosa’s sweatshirt pocket.
What the video shows is the officer aiming his rifle through the windshield as the pickup is still moving, just as it arrives on the scene. The officer then fires five shots as the vehicle comes to a stop.
The officer, who has not been identified by the Vallejo police but others have identified as Detective Jarrett Tonn, asked, “What did he point at us?”
“I don’t know, man,” an officer responds.
The shooting officer says, “Oh f***” and then, as they approach Monterrosa, says, “Stupid!”
“He came around, came right at us,” he says.
Then he adds, “I thought that f—ing ax was a gun.”
“I thought he was armed, too, dude,” the captain says.
“You’ll be alright,” the captain tells the officer. “You’ve been through this before.”
The video shows the officers briefly aligning their story and at no point is the officer shown to be separated from other involved officers, standard procedure for California police agencies.
The Vanguard spoke to attorney John Burris late on Wednesday, who was perplexed at the lack of actual video.
“The most shocking part of the entire video was there was no video of the shooting,” Burris, a longtime civil rights attorney based in Oakland, said.
He found this particularly surprising because, the day that the shooting death was announced in early June, the police chief gave descriptions that he claimed came from the video.
“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.
Vallejo, as is required by state law, has body cameras. But, according to Burris, the camera came on—but after the shooting. There was also a drone, “but the drone somehow got destroyed.” Also the video from Walgreens itself was “destroyed.”
“Conveniently all the video tapes were destroyed or not available,” he said. “We certainly didn’t see any of the shooting.”
Based on this, John Burris said, “Our recourse, we have to file a lawsuit, period.”
Last Solano County District Attorney Krishna Abrams called on Attorney General Xavier Becerra to investigate the shooting, citing a “perceived conflict” in the District Attorney’s Office and a lack of trust “from some community members.”
In a videoed statement on July 2, Abrams said, “In the interest of safety and justice, I’m here today to announce that I’m recusing myself and my office from viewing the two recent officer involved fatal incidents involving Willie McCoy and Sean Monterrosa and referring them to the attorney general’s office.”
Burris said the AG will determine whether or not criminal and added, “I’m not optimistic particularly in light of what they’ve done and in light of the fact that there are no videos that they are prepared to bring forward.”
—David M. Greenwald reporting
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