Burris Believes Vallejo Police Shooting of McCoy Unjustified

John Burris last June flanked by the family of Willie McCoy, a previous victim of the Vallejo police

While the region is focused on the June 2 killing of Sean Monterrosa by Vallejo police, Vallejo still has not resolved the 2019 shooting of Willie McCoy, where police fired more than 40 rounds into his vehicle as he slept—13 of those shots were considered lethal by investigators.

On Friday, Vallejo PD released previously not publicly available video and analysis of the shooting.

John Burris, who represents the Willie McCoy family just as he does Sean Monterrosa’s family, told the Vanguard that those records were previously made available to his team and change little about their understanding of the case.

“From a public point of view, I think the department is under a lot of pressure,” Burris said.  “Pretty much it was something that they had to do—it was important for them to have done it and they should have done it sooner.

“It doesn’t change our perspective on things,” Burris explained.  “It is a case we are working through.  We understand the legal issues around the shooting issue.”

Burris said that their experts believe that the shooting was wrong.  The tactics were wrong.  His civil rights were violated.

The broader picture is that there have been 18 fatal shootings in the last decade and that has led to a pattern and practice question that the state attorney general’s office is investigating.

“All these revelations taking place around Vallejo PD only reaffirm what we have always thought,” he said.  “They’re a very insulated department that really controls the system—it’s an out of control department, but in control by the officers themselves.

“It’s like they’re running the department,” Burris said, noting the incidents of police-involved shootings, destruction of evidence and recent revelations about bending badges.

On February 9, 2019, around 10:30 pm, McCoy was found unconscious at the drive-thru of a Vallejo Taco Bell, in his car with a .40 caliber semiautomatic handgun in his lap.  Police were called to the scene by a Taco Bell employee informing dispatch that he was unresponsive.

The video footage begins with an officer pointing his gun at a car window and saying, “There’s a gun in his lap. I’m going to bust that f***ing window.”

Police decide that he only had one bullet left in the magazine.

“If he shoots he’s only got one shot,” an officer confirms.

When McCoy begins to move, it is not even clear he’s conscious, but then the police open fire.

“The fact that he had a gun on his lap, that doesn’t justify shooting him,” Burris explained.  “You can’t wake a person up and then before they even have a chance to do a legitimate move, acknowledge where they are, you shoot them.

“You have to at least give the person an opportunity to know where they are,” he said.  “He wasn’t trying to put a gun on them—he was trying to wake up.”

According to the documents released by Vallejo police, once of the officers, Officer McMahon, was terminated not because he shot McCoy but rather because he was found to have engaged in unsafe conduct by firing in too close of proximity to his other officers.

The report says: Failure to observe or violating department safety standards or safe work practices, unsafe firearm or other dangerous weapon handling and unsatisfactory work performance.

McMahon is also a repeat offender, as he fired his gun “negligently” when he fatally shot Ronell Foster, an unarmed bicyclist, in 2018.

Burris noted that the police have hired a new investigator to run the investigation and that this release is related to the timing of everything else that is going on in the department now.

“They are under fire and they rightfully should be,” Burris said.  “They have gotten away with murder for years.”  And not just murder, “they have gotten away with all kinds of misconduct.”

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. Alan Miller

    I appreciate the coverage on Vallejo.  I don’t understand why you again have a headline that starts with “Burris says”.  He’s a lawyer, correct?  I don’t think he’s a household name so I’m not sure why you put his name in headlines meant to draw people in.  Am I missing out that he’s something more than a lawyer?

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