The officers’ body camera images were released Wednesday about the fatal shooting of a San Francisco man whom Vallejo, California police said was partially kneeling when he was killed last month. But the videos don’t show the moments leading up to the shooting.
The footage was made public after the family of Sean Monterrosa, 22, was allowed to view the recordings. Vallejo police said three officers in a van activated their cameras, but none of the images showed Monterrosa before the officer fired his weapon. The vehicle had no camera.
“It was quite surprising and shocking to us that there was no video of the shooting itself,” John Burris, an attorney for the Monterrosa family, said at a press conference. The footage includes the shooting, but does not include a view of Monterrosa until after he was hit.
Vallejo police said officers were responding to a looting report after midnight June 2 when they encountered Monterrosa in a Walgreens parking lot, police chief Shawny Williams said in a recorded message along with images of the body camera.
There was an earlier incident at the scene in which a police car was rammed and officials described seeing several “potential looters” enter the cars and flee, Williams said. When the other officers arrived, Williams said, Monterrosa started running towards a car, then stopped and crouched in a kneeling position in front of the officers.
One of the officers told investigators that he believed Monterrosa had a gun in his sweatshirt pocket and was kneeling “as if preparing to shoot,” moving his hands toward the jacket in the oncoming vehicle, Williams said.
The officer fired his gun five times through the windshield, hitting Monterrosa, according to authorities.
Police discovered that the object in his pocket was not a weapon, but a long hammer.
The hammer could not be seen in the video, but police released an image of it on Wednesday.
After Monterrosa was shot, the officer who fired his gun was heard asking, “What did he point out to us?”
“I don’t know, man,” answers another officer.
“Hey, he pointed a gun at us,” said the first officer.
While Monterrosa lay on the ground, the officers ordered him not to move and “Spread your hands. Spread your hands.”
They began to provide him with medical care, including chest compressions, before the doctors arrived.
“Every time a life is lost, it is tragic, and our thoughts go out to Mr. Monterrosa’s family at this time,” Williams said in his message.
In the days after the shooting, the Monterrosa police and family brutality protesters had called for the release of the video from the body camera. Police in Vallejo, a city in the Bay Area about 30 miles north of San Francisco, have been the subject of dozens of excessive force lawsuits and excessively aggressive police complaints in recent years. Monterrosa’s death is the eighteenth fatal shooting involved by police since 2010, and the majority of those killed were black and brown men, according to records. Monterrosa was Latino.
The officer who fired his weapon has not been identified by the city, which said it “defends your right to reveal the officer’s name at a time and by a method of your choice.” The Vallejo Police Officers Association, the local police union, also filed a temporary restraining order to prevent disclosure of the officer’s identity. The city said the name could be released once the matter is resolved.
The officer has been placed on paid administrative leave, along with the other official witnesses on the scene.
The Monterrosa sisters have spoken openly about challenging the police department and its timeline for his death. In the initial press release, police did not say that Monterrosa was killed, and Williams did not publicly announce it until a press conference the following afternoon. But the family previously told reporters that Monterrosa was pronounced dead at the hospital about an hour after the incident.
“The department worked as quickly as possible to gather accurate information from the initial phases of the investigation to share with the public,” Vallejo police said on the city’s website.
While police said officials described seeing alleged looters at the scene, the department has revealed no evidence that Monterrosa has been involved in criminal activities. Her sisters said they don’t know what she was doing in Vallejo.
Before Monterrosa’s death, the California Department of Justice had begun talks with Vallejo officials to carry out an “expansive review” of the police department, a deal announced June 5 and seen as a positive step by activists. from the community and the relatives of those killed by the police. . However, Attorney General Xavier Becerra declined that same month to independently investigate the Monterrosa shooting, leaving him at the Solano County District Attorney’s Office to determine if the charges are warranted.
In the wake of protests demanding an external investigation, District Attorney Krishna Abrams announced last week that she had challenged her office from investigations into Monterrosa’s death, as well as the 2019 police shooting of Willie McCoy, a young black man who He was killed in a hail of bullets after waking up in his car. Officers said they saw a gun on the lap of the Bay Area rapper who fell asleep in a drive-thru.
“As our own attorney general has said, when our communities speak, we must listen … I, too, am listening and listening to their pleas for an independent investigation,” Abrams said.
Becerra’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on which agency is leading the investigations.