By David M. Greenwald
Vallejo, CA – Criticizing the Solano County DA for failing to act, Attorney General Rob Bonta on Thursday announced his office will conduct a full independent review of the officer-involved shooting death of Sean Monterrosa to determine whether criminal charges are warranted.
Bonta said, “There must be clarity around this officer-involved shooting that led to the death of Mr. Sean Monterrosa. What is needed is a fair and complete, thorough and transparent review.”
That has not happened to date, the Attorney General said, but that is going to change now. To date, he noted that the Vallejo PD has conducted an internal investigation but that has stopped and there has been no review of the facts of that investigation.
He spoke to both the Solano District Attorney, the Vallejo Mayor and the family, “Today I’m announcing the department of justice will be taking on the review of the review of the tragic case that led to the death of
Mr. Sean Monterrosa.”
Monterrosa, 22, was shot by a Vallejo PD office on June 2, 2020. 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.
The AG was critical of the DA’s office in Solano County noting, “What has happened is there has been inaction.” He said, “This case deserves action.”
“It is unfortunate that to this point, the Solano County District Attorney has not acted,” he said. “The Solano County has recused herself when there was no basis to do so. There was no actual conflict under the law.”
“She has repeatedly said that she can be impartial, thorough and fair,” he said noting that she should have taken on the case and that he said that to her personally.
“Given the failure of the Solano County DA to fulfill her responsibility, we will review the case to ensure a fair, thorough, and transparent investigation,” Bonta said during the press conference.
In a statement released by his office, it noted, “At a moment when building trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve is more important than ever, the District Attorney’s failure to act only serves to create more obfuscation and distrust in our justice system. Monterrosa was fatally shot by a Vallejo Police Department officer on June 2, 2020.
“Without accountability, there is no justice,” said Bonta.
He added, “This is the right thing to do and I will go where the facts lead. Rebuilding trust in our institutions starts with the actions of each and every one of us. If there has been wrongdoing, we will bring it to light.”
The investigation was completed by the Vallejo PD’s office on March 10, 2021. The AG noted that, “the District Attorney, without invitation or notice, attempted to deliver the investigative file to the California Department of Justice. In effect, the District Attorney demanded that the Department assume the responsibilities she was elected to carry out, despite the fact that no known circumstances prevented her from discharging her duties. “
However, under the law, the DA offered no evidence for finding a conflict under California Law.
The AG’s office noted that historically such shootings are handled by the local DA’s office who “are largely resourced by and responsible to the jurisdictions where the incidents occurred, as should have been the case with the investigation into the shooting of Sean Monterrosa in Solano County.”
However, as a result of Assembly Bill 1506, which goes into effect on July 1, 2021, the DOJ “will soon have an important new tool to directly help build and maintain trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve by taking over investigations of officer-involved shootings of unarmed civilians across California.”
Bonta noted that this case does not fall under AB 1506 as it preceded its implementation.
The shooting of Monterrosa last June, coming mere weeks after George Floyd’s death and during protests in Vallejo, has drawn criticism and national attention as officers appear to mistake a hammer for a gun and then lose critical evidence.
Back in July 2020, the AG’soffice under Becerra declined to take on the case claiming, “Because our resources are limited, we must be selective in deploying them where necessary and appropriate.”
On July 2, the Solano County DA, Krishna Abrams, attempted to recuse herself from the investigation. In the video statement, she said was stepping back from investigating the shooting deaths of Willie McCoy and Sean Monterrosa.
The Solano County DA said, “Throughout my career as a prosecutor for over 24 years I have fought for justice for crime victims from all walks of life, supported the dedicated men and women of law enforcement, upheld the constitutional rights of those accused and sought to hold accountable those who’ve committed crimes throughout our community.”
Senator Bill Doddissued a statement shortly after the announcement.
“I’ve been calling for an independent investigation of this tragic case since the beginning, and I am glad Attorney General Bonta has taken this necessary step,” said Sen. Dodd. “It’s crucial that we have a thorough and impartial review of the facts and get accountability for any wrongdoing.”
Civil rights attorney John Burris, who is representing the Monterrosa family in a wrongful death suit issued a statement on Thursday, “I am thankful Attorney General Rob Bonta is taking over the review into the Vallejo police shooting of Sean Monterrosa.
“The Vallejo police command staff knew or should have known that this was Tonn’s fourth shooting in five years and by failing to discipline officers for misconduct, Vallejo’s police command staff essentially ratified the bad conduct.”
—David M. Greenwald reporting
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