22-year-old Sean Monterrosa, the San Francisco man who was fatally shot Monday night by a Vallejo police officer who believed he was carrying a handgun — which turned out to be a hammer — was the son of a longtime employee at Anchor Oyster Bar in the Castro. And his family is speaking out about what they say was his wrongful death.
As earlier reported, Monterrosa was believed to be taking part in looting activity at a Walgreens amid a night of unrest in Vallejo. Arriving officers say that he appeared to be running to a getaway vehicle when he stopped to surrender, and an officer who believed he had a gun in his waistband shot five times through his own vehicle's windshield, killing Monterrosa. The Vallejo PD took a full day to admit that a person had been killed in the shooting, and in a news conference Wednesday, Police Chief Shawny Williams said that Monterrosa was kneeling with his hands above his waist at the time of the shooting.
"I cried. I cried because no one deserves that. He was surrendering," says older sister Michelle Monterrosa, speaking to ABC 7. "Barely raising his hands and midway they shot him. They executed him, there was no reason for them to kill my brother like that."
Monterrosa's sister also spoke with the Chronicle Thursday, saying that less than an hour before he was shot Monday night, Sean had sent her a link to a petition demanding justice for George Floyd.
Monterrosa's parents immigrated to the U.S. from Argentina over two decades ago. His father, Neftali, had been a surgeon in his home country, but with a child on the way and no easy way to get medical certification here, he became a server at Anchor Oyster Bar and has worked there for the past 24 years.
The family says that the Vallejo Police Department did not initially contact them to inform them of Sean's death — his girlfriend called his sister to deliver the news.
"She got the phone call and they say, Sean is dead. I started crying," Neftali tells ABC 7. "I called my wife after that and she was very strong."
Sean Monterrosa grew up in Bernal Heights an industrious young man who was intent on earning money from an early age. The three siblings, each separated by two years with Sean in the middle, say they grew up almost as triplets.
As his sisters tell the Chronicle, before he was legally able to get a job, around age 13 or 14, he would sling hot dogs to drunk people late at night outside clubs like Monarch in SoMa.
Younger sister Ashley recalls, "He’d always laugh and say, 'They’d give me $100 bills as tips thinking they were a dollar.'" Sean would try to return the bills, she says, and the people would usually let him keep them — which is kind of a fitting scene to dramatize the last few years of income inequality in San Francisco.
He had recently been working as a carpenter, and was set to start a new gig on Friday, his sisters say. And while he had a few arrests on his record, the family says those were wrongful, and he was often profiled due to his appearance.
"Because of the way he looks he’s been stereotyped," Ashley tells the Chronicle. "He has tattoos, he dresses a certain type of way — they would always try and stop him."
It is ironic that Sean Monterrosa was out on a night of protest about a wrongful police killing thousands of miles away, and regardless of what trouble he may have been up to with friends Monday night, he then became another statistic — and another person shot dead by a cop.
Michelle Monterrosa says the Vallejo PD provided a "false narrative" to the public at a press conference on Wednesday.
The family is now represented by civil rights attorney John Burris, who has been involved with many high-profile wrongful death cases like this one.
As Burris said earlier this week, "Notwithstanding what he’s accused of doing, you don’t kill people because they’re looters."
A "March for Justice" for Sean Monterrosa is happening today (June 5) at 3 p.m., starting at Mission and 24th Street and marching to the SFPD's Mission Station.
The family has started a GoFundMe campaign to cover funeral and legal expenses, which so far has raised $120,000.