The Vallejo Police Department has now changed its story over the fatal shooting of 22-year-old Sean Monterrosa, and famed civil rights attorney John Burris wants answers.
The Vallejo Times Herald has photos and a rundown of the Justice for Sean Monterrosa rally Saturday, which features the memorable quote from his sister Michelle, “From the video, we were able to see the (expletive expletive) they (the Vallejo Police Department) did.” She refers to the body cam footage Vallejo police released of her brother’s June 2 shooting at the hands of a department officer. But the department’s story has changed since the video was released, and the footage shows the rifle-toting officer literally shot first and asked questions later. Further, the video does not show Monterrosa himself until after he is already slain, and KQED’s coverage of Saturday’s rally notes that the family is calling for more body cam footage to get to the bottom of this.
The incident took place in early June at the height of the George Floyd demonstrations, which certainly involved some ransacking of retailers, and Vallejo PD responded to a call of reported looting at a Walgreens around 12:30 a.m. The department’s initial story, proven wrong by the bodycam footage shown below that was not released until a month after the shooting, was that Monterrosa pulled out “what appeared to be the butt of a handgun,” according to Vallejo police chief Shawny Williams. This video released, which is disturbing as it shows the shot that killed Monterrosa, depicts the incident at the 4:50 mark with the sound off, and when the sound comes on, we hear the officer dialogue: “What did he point at us?,” and the response “I don’t know, man.”
We do not see Monterrossa in this footage until he is already dead, or in the lingo of the Vallejo PD, has encountered a “discharge of the service weapon.” As the Chronicle notes in an op-ed today, Chief Williams now says police found Monterrosa “in a crouching-down, half-kneeling position as if in preparation to shoot,” again, not confirmed by the video, and suspicious in the sense that we now know he did not have a firearm (though was carrying a hammer, but you don’t generally kneel if using a hammer as a weapon).
Famed civil rights attorney John Burriss is representing the family, and thinks there’s plenty of missing evidence the police are still burying. “We have been told that they did not turn on [body cameras] at the critical moment when the shooting took place,” he told KQED. “It’s hard to believe, and we do not believe it.”
The Vallejo police have brought an independent oversight commission to conduct a third-party investigation, as this is not their only recent incident of this nature. The Solano County District Attorney has recused herself from investigating this case, as well as the previous officer-involved shooting of Willie McCoy, and she is pushing California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to step in to conduct an investigation. Apart from a general review of the Vallejo PD by Becerra's office, he has so far declined to intervene.
Monterrosa’s family, meanwhile, continues their GoFundMe effort for funeral coast and legal fees while their attorneys continue applying pressure.
Image: Vessels of Vallejo via Twitter