Tag Archives: Police violence

Body cam video: Vallejo officer shoots Sean Monterrosa through windshield, then asks if he was armed

Police footage shows Vallejo officer fatally shot SF man from truck’s back seat

San Francisco Chronicle, Megan Cassidy and Anna Bauman July 8, 2020
A screen capture from body camera footage that showed the police officer-involved shooting that resulted in the death of 22-year-old Sean Monterrosa on June 2 in Vallejo.
A screen capture from body camera footage that showed the police officer-involved shooting that resulted in the death of 22-year-old Sean Monterrosa on June 2 in Vallejo. Photo: Vallejo Police Department

Body camera footage released Wednesday shows that the Vallejo police officer who killed a San Francisco man in front of a Walgreens last month was in the back seat of an unmarked pickup truck that had just pulled up to the scene when he fired a high-powered rifle through the windshield.

Sean Monterrosa, 22, died after the 12:30 a.m. shooting on June 2, following a day of rallies and protests against police violence on people of color. The footage released Wednesday shows multiple views from inside the pickup truck, which officers used to respond to reports of looting at the store.

But it does not show Monterrosa as he was shot or at any point before he was struck due to the camera angles, and police said that a store security camera that might have captured the shooting had been disabled by looters.

Police Chief Shawny Williams previously said Monterrosa was on his knees and raising his arms, “revealing what appeared to be the butt of a handgun” when he was shot, but on Wednesday he offered a description that portrayed Monterrosa as an aggressor.

“One of our detectives described what he believed was 22-year-old Sean Monterrosa turning towards the officers in a crouching down, half-kneeling position, as if in preparation to shoot,” Williams said in a recorded statement. “At the same time, the detective saw Mr. Monterrosa move his hands toward his waist area, and grab what appeared to be the butt of a handgun.”

That could not be verified by the videos released Wednesday.

When asked why he changed this description, Williams told The Chronicle that he was clarifying the previous “narrative” that was not accurate.

Williams’ revised statement now aligns with the Vallejo Police Officers’ Association’s description of Monterrosa’s body language just before the shooting.

In a statement, the union wrote, “Rather than continuing his escape, Mr. Monterrosa chose to engage the responding officers. Mr. Monterrosa abruptly pivoted back around toward the officers, crouched into a tactical shooting position, and grabbed an object in his waistband that appeared to be the butt of a handgun. At no time did Mr. Monterrosa make any movements consistent with surrendering.”

The body cam footage from the pickup truck driver, which begins without sound because the body camera has an audio delay, shows the barrel of the rifle inside the vehicle and five rounds being fired as the truck comes to a stop. The officers get out of the car and yell orders at Monterrosa, who was killed by a single bullet.

“What did he point at us?” says the officer who opened fire.

“I don’t know, man,” says the officer who was driving.

“Hey, he pointed a gun at us,” says the officer who opened fire.

Body camera footage shows the officer involved shooting that resulted in the death of Sean Monterrosa on Tuesday, June 2, 2020 in Vallejo, Calif.
Body camera footage shows the officer involved shooting that resulted in the death of Sean Monterrosa on Tuesday, June 2, 2020 in Vallejo, Calif. Photo: Vallejo Police Department

The officer’s name was not released Wednesday after the city’s police union filed for and received a temporary restraining order.

Williams has previously said the officer believed he saw the butt of a handgun poking out near Monterrosa’s waist and opened fire “due to this perceived threat.”

An investigation later revealed Monterrosa had a 15-inch hammer tucked into the pocket of a sweatshirt.

Roughly 100 friends and supporters of the Monterrosa family stood quietly Wednesday afternoon outside Vallejo City Hall, where Michelle and Ashley Monterrosa, the young man’s sisters, exited with their attorneys, John Burris and Melissa Nold. The sisters wiped away tears, and flowers and candles were set up on the steps. People wore shirts that said “Justice for Sean Monterrosa” and held signs that read “defund the police.”

ACLU, SF Board of Supes request release of footage in Monterrosa shooting

Vallejo Times-Herald, by John Glidden, July 6, 2020 
Jorge and Linda Moreno, former roommates of Sean Monterrosa, protest in front of City Hall prior to a June 5 march. Monterrosa was killed by a Vallejo police officer on June 2. (Chris Riley – Times-Herald file photo)

Pressure continues to mount from outside Vallejo to release body camera footage from the fatal officer-involved shooting of Sean Monterrosa in front of a Vallejo Walgreens during the early morning hours of June 2.

Both the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors have taken the rare action of asking Vallejo leaders to release the body camera footage immediately, instead of delaying release of the footage up to 45 calendar days — as allowed by state law.

“For years, police accountability and civil rights activist in Vallejo have run up against a police department that has disproportionately targeted people of color, has been allowed to brutalize Black and Latino residents, and has rarely been held accountable for its actions,” part of the supervisors’ June 16 resolution reads.

In its five-page letter from June 30, the ACLU criticizes the city for failing to release the body camera footage, and video from a private drone sought through the California Public Records Act by the nonprofit public interest newsroom Open Vallejo.

“Not only is the city required to release these records pursuant to the PRA, the city’s delay erodes what little public trust remains with a community that has seen far too many killed and brutally assaulted by the police,” the letter states.

Monterrosa, 22, of San Francisco was shot and killed outside the Walgreens on Redwood Street. Law enforcement sources say the police officer is Jarrett Tonn. He fired five times through a car windshield, hitting Monterrosa once. City and police officials have yet to officially confirm Tonn as the shooter.

“Sean Monterrosa was my constituent and a beloved member of the Bernal Heights and Mission District neighborhoods that I represent,” said San Francisco Supervisor Hillary Ronen, who authored the resolution, in a statement to the Times-Herald on Monday. “He was a passionate advocate for social justice, and his death by Vallejo police has left a painful void in our community. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the resolution I authored urging the release of body camera footage from the officers involved in Sean’s death in order to bring greater transparency to this case and help Sean’s family obtain the justice they deserve.”

Monterrosa’s sister, Ashley Monterrosa, told the Times-Herald over the weekend that the family was offered the chance recently to watch the body camera footage, but only without a lawyer. The family declined.

Ashley Monterrosa said the family is hoping to watch the footage some time this week with their lawyer. She said a lawsuit would likely be followed afterward. The Monterrosa family is being represented by civil rights attorney John Burris.

Vallejo Police Dept bans carotid control hold, “focuses on assessment and reform”

Vallejo police chief bans officers from using carotid hold

Vallejo Times-Herald, by John Glidden, June 18, 2020 
Williams

Vallejo police Chief Shawny Williams issued a special order banning his officers from using a controversial restraint as the department begins to flesh out its use of force and de-escalation police, the department announced Thursday.

Officers can no longer apply a carotid control hold, also known as a vascular neck constraint, while attempting to subdue aggressive or resistant individuals.

“This immediate ban of the carotid control hold is the right thing to do as our department focuses on assessment and reform,” said Williams in a statement released by the department on Thursday. “I also think it’s important for the Vallejo community to know that the carotid control hold is not a stranglehold or a chokehold; those types of holds were never authorized by VPD and do not reflect our values as a department.”

Vallejo Mayor Bob Sampayan took to social media after the news release was issued to register his approval with the decision, saying if the hold isn’t “done correctly (it) could injure a person.”

“This restraint has no place in policing,” he said.

Vallejo’s ban comes two weeks after Gov. Gavin Newsom told the California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) to stop teaching the restraint as the hold blocks the flow of blood to the brain.

“We train techniques on strangleholds that put people’s lives at risk,” Newsom said. “That has no place any longer in 21st-century practices and policing.”

The hold requires an officer to place his/her arm on the sides of the person’s neck. As the officer begins to apply pressure, blood flow is blocked in the carotid arteries, causing the person to lose consciousness. Applied too long, the hold can cause serious injury or death.

Williams’ announcement follows the unveiling of a new proposed implementation plan based off a 70-page report by the OIR Group which analyzed the operations, culture and internal review of the department. The consultant made 45 recommendations which focus on three major areas: protecting the community, build trust and communication, and 21st century policing.

Retained last summer, OIR Group received $40,000 to review the department’s officer training, hiring, promotional processes, transparency, community engagement, resource assessment, and internal review of deadly force incidents.

While some California police unions promise change, others seek to undo reforms

San Francisco Chronicle, by Joe Garofoli, June 18, 2020
Demonstrators take a knee in an intersection, blocking traffic, and have a moment of silence for 8 minutes and 46 seconds during a protest organized by a group of young people to support Black Lives Matter on June 16, 2020 in Mill Valley, Calif.
Demonstrators take a knee in an intersection, blocking traffic, and have a moment of silence for 8 minutes and 46 seconds during a protest organized by a group of young people to support Black Lives Matter on June 16, 2020 in Mill Valley, Calif. Photo: Kate Munsch / Special to The Chronicle

While three of California’s biggest local police unions are taking out full-page newspaper ads promising to back reforms, other law enforcement organizations have pumped more than $2 million into a November ballot measure that would partially overturn laws that some call models for reforming the criminal justice system.

Police unions have contributed more than half the nearly $4 million raised for the Reducing Crime and Keeping California Safe Act campaign. The ballot initiative would roll back provisions in three measures that were aimed at reducing the state’s prison population, including Proposition 47, a voter-approved 2014 initiative that reclassified several felony crimes as misdemeanors.

The measure would change Prop. 47 by allowing prosecutors to charge a defendant with a felony for a third offense of stealing something worth more than $250. Prop. 47 raised the felony threshold for theft to $950 from $450.

“It is a measured approach to correct the problems we had with Prop. 47,” said Brian Marvel, president of the Peace Officers Research Association of California, the state’s largest law enforcement labor organization, representing more than 77,000 public safety workers.

The ballot measure would also change parts of AB109, a 2011 law that transferred the responsibility for many nonviolent felons from state prisons to county jails. It would require the Board of Parole Hearings to consider an inmate’s whole criminal history when deciding on parole, not just the person’s most recent crime.

The initiative would also alter Proposition 57, a 2016 ballot measure that made it easier for nonviolent felons to win parole. It would expand the list of crimes that would not be eligible for early parole to include felony domestic violence and other violations.

“There were some good pieces in Prop. 47 and 57, but it was overly broad,” Marvel said.

Prop. 47 and the other two measures were part of the response to a 2011 federal court order that California cut the number of inmates in its overcrowded prisons by 34,000 within two years.

In this photo taken Friday, Feb. 13, 2015, Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced talks with Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez, R-Lake Elsinore, at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif. Four months after California voters approved Proposition 47, which reduced penalties for certain crimes, state lawmakers and law enforcement officials are lining up to repeal portions they say went too far. Gray and Melendez have introduced legislation that would restore the felony charge for stealing guns, if the measure is approved by the Legislature and by voters next year.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
In this photo taken Friday, Feb. 13, 2015, Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced talks with Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez, R-Lake Elsinore, at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif. Four months after California voters approved Proposition 47, which reduced penalties for certain crimes, state lawmakers and law enforcement officials are lining up to repeal portions they say went too far. Gray and Melendez have introduced legislation that would restore the felony charge for stealing guns, if the measure is approved by the Legislature and by voters next year. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Besides reducing the prison population, Prop. 47 and AB109 combined to lower the overall arrest rate per 100,000 residents by nearly 20%, according to a 2019 report by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California.

Prop. 47 has also helped to steer money away from incarceration. The law required that the state spend the money it saved by not imprisoning more nonviolent felons on social and educational programs — an example of “defund the police” initiatives that many reformers are calling for now. This year, the state will redirect nearly $103 million in this way, according to the California Department of Finance.

Reform advocates say the November ballot measure would be difficult to square economically with a state budget that has plunged into the red with the coronavirus pandemic. A report to be released Thursday by the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, a nonpartisan organization in San Francisco that works to reduce reliance on incarceration, found that the changes proposed by the ballot measure could cost California “hundreds of millions of dollars in new annual costs” to take care of more people in prison and monitor more felons on probation.

In San Francisco, the measure could mean up to $7.5 million in additional annual costs, and Alameda County’s total could rise by $26 million, the study found.

“It’s a prison spending scam at a time when we are actively closing prisons and reallocating funds toward what’s needed in communities,” said Dan Newman, a political strategist who is working on the opposition campaign. “They’re doubling down on solidifying their places on the wrong side of history at a critical moment.”

Demonstrators march onto a Hwy 101 overpass during a protest organized by a group of young people to support Black Lives Matter on June 16, 2020 in Mill Valley, Calif.
Demonstrators march onto a Hwy 101 overpass during a protest organized by a group of young people to support Black Lives Matter on June 16, 2020 in Mill Valley, Calif. Photo: Kate Munsch / Special to The Chronicle

The ballot measure’s supporters started the initiative campaign long before the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd touched off anti-brutality protests across the country, and they’re not changing their approach now.

“Why should we? We just want reform, too” said Kelli Reid, a consultant to the campaign.

The campaign’s website says the past decade’s changes have led to “an explosion of serial theft and an inability of law enforcement to prosecute these crimes effectively.” The initiative’s proponents say they want to change parole rules because “parolees who repeatedly violate the terms of their parole currently face few consequences, allowing them to remain on the street.”

“If I stab you or beat you with a baseball bat, those are considered nonviolent crimes under the penal code (now),” said Assemblyman Jim Cooper, D-Elk Grove (Sacramento County), a former Sacramento County sheriff’s captain who supports the measure. “These are not crazy things we’re proposing.”

A 2018 study by the Public Policy Institute of California, however, found “no evidence that violent crime increased as a result of Proposition 47.” The report did find that “it may have contributed to a rise in larceny thefts, which increased by roughly 9 percent” from 2014 to 2016.

Some leading Prop. 47 advocates see a contrast between the ballot measure and promises by local police unions to back changes in law enforcement.