By David M. Greenwald
Fairfield, CA – Solano County DA Krishna Abrams fired back on Friday against AG Bonta, one day after the newly appointed AG criticized Abrams for failing to act on the nearly year-old shooting of Sean Monterrosa.
“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.
Abrams fired backed, accusing the AG of “playing politics with one of the most critical and divisive issues in our communities today – officer involved fatalities.
“It is beyond disappointing that we can’t trust the statement of the Attorney General,” she said, explaining that she spoke with the AG at 10 am on Thursday regarding a newly implemented Major Crimes Task Force and volunteering to work with his office regarding AB 1506—which requires the AG to investigate incidents of an officer-involved shooting resulting in the death of an unarmed citizen.
She said that she and the AG “spoke about the review of the officer-involved shooting of Sean Monterrosa that occurred on June 2, 2020, in the city of Vallejo.”
She asked whether the AG would review the case in light of AB 1506 and said he “stated that his department would not be reviewing the case due to funding not being available until July 1st.”
She said, “Within an hour of my telephone conference this morning with Mr. Bonta, he notified me that his department would be reviewing the case, completely reversing himself, and now suddenly blaming Solano County for failing to do its job by not reviewing the matter.
“This is a material misrepresentation and could not be further from the truth,” she said. “Since the shooting, there has been an overwhelming public outcry and sentiment by a broad spectrum of members of our community… demanding the AG’s Office review of this officer involved fatality.”
She said it was the AG’s Office that “has failed to act over the past year and has failed to listen to the will of the People.
“Having been on the job for less than one month, it is of significant concern that Attorney General Bonta would criticize our office for wanting to ensure that the people of Solano County have complete confidence in the integrity of the investigation,” she said. “In every case, we seek a full, fair, independent and unbiased investigation for all parties, and that a fair, unbiased, independent and objective decision is made.”
She added, “We listen to our community and work diligently to instill public trust in every decision we make. What creates distrust in our communities is allowing politics to interfere with critical decisions that affect our community.”
However, at no point does the DA state that they have actually conducted the investigation into the year-old shooting of Monterrosa.
Bonta on Thursday charged, “What is needed is a fair and complete, thorough and transparent review.”
That has not happened to date, the attorney general said.
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 DA 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.
Three weeks after the shooting, Attorney John Burris was in front of the DA’s office in Fairfield to demand the DA either prosecute the case or recuse herself.
The family along with John Burris maintain that Sean Monterrosa had “essentially surrendered,” going down voluntarily on his knees, and was in the process of putting his hands up. It was at this point the officer saw what he thought was a gun and shot him even though the officer was not out of his car.
In a video statement in early July, Abrams called on then-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.”
However, the AG’s Office in late July announced that they had declined to take on the Monterrosa investigation.
In a letter dated July 27, the attorney general writes that, while he understands and appreciates the concern expressed in their letter, the role of the AG’s office “in intervening in a local criminal investigation and prosecution is limited.”
He writes, “California’s 58 district attorneys are charged with investigating and prosecuting criminal cases as the elected public prosecutors for each of our counties.”
He goes on to say, “Absent a conflict of interest, abuse of discretion or other exceptional circumstances, the Department of Justice generally does not assume responsibility for investigations or prosecutions of officer involved shootings.”
Phillip Ferrari, the Special Assistant to the Attorney General wrote, “With respect to the underlying investigation into the shooting, that investigation is already being conducted by local authorities.”
The letter concludes that DA Abrams “has publicly stated that she is confident that her office can conduct a fair and thorough review of any officer involved shooting, and she has not identified a conflict of interest or any other extraordinary circumstances that would require our office to assume the responsibilities of the District Attorney’s office.”
In the DA’s release, at no point did she clarify what if anything her department had done to locally investigate the case—the main claim from AG Bonta was that her office had failed to do so.
—David M. Greenwald reporting
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