Category Archives: Vallejo Police

Vallejo police shooting: Protesters march to raise awareness for Sean Monterrosa

22-year-old was killed on Tuesday morning

Protesters face off against police officers during a peaceful march over the killing of Sean Monterrosa, the 22-year-old San Francisco man, who was shot and killed by a Vallejo Police officer during looting on Tuesday. (Chris Riley—Times-Herald)
Vallejo Times Herald, by Thomas Gase, June 6, 2020

When Black Lives Matter protesters met up Friday afternoon at Vallejo City Hall around 5 p.m., they were met by blocked streets. That didn’t seem to phase a crowd intent on honoring a 22-year-old man who also saw his own path cut short.

Hundreds of people marched for about 2.5 miles, starting down Georgia Street, then making a left on Sonoma Boulevard and then finally a right on Redwood Street to Walgreens —the place where Sean Monterrosa was killed by a Vallejo police officer on Tuesday morning.

During the march, the East Bay Times, in conjunction with the Times-Herald, released a story reporting that the officer who killed Monterrosa was Jarrett Tonn.

The marchers discovered this about halfway through the march while blocking the intersection of Tennessee Street and Sonoma Boulevard.

“That’s where it happened,” Maui Wilson said. “The police station was blocked off and Walgreens we knew would be a little safer. We had people marching with wheelchairs and we also had kids and the elderly. There is a time and place for everything, but safety was a key issue.”

Before moving to San Francisco to live with his girlfriend, Monterrosa lived in San Lorenzo with Lynda and Jorge Moreno for nine months. When Lynda heard they were going to Walgreens as the destination of the march she said, “it felt right.”

Once at Walgreens, the large crowd, which had grown substantially during the trip, with many cars honking in support, paid respects to Monterrosa by taking a knee in silence, as well as holding up their hands as if surrendering.

The kneeling and hands up were to symbolize Monterrosa, who was at the same Walgreens Monday night and early Tuesday morning as the store was being looted. According to Vallejo Police Chief Shawny Williams, officers in a unit saw a “single male dressed in a black hooded sweatshirt standing on the east side of the building.” The person was later identified as Monterrosa.

In a report on Wednesday, Williams went on: “The officers saw this individual begin running toward the black sedan when he stopped and abruptly turned toward the officers, crouching down in a half-kneeling position as if in preparation to shoot, and moving his hands toward his waist area near what appeared to be the butt of a handgun. Investigations later revealed that the weapon was a long, 15-inch hammer, tucked into the pocket of his sweatshirt.”

That’s when the officer, Tonn, reportedly fired his pistol five times, striking Monterrosa once. Monterrosa was declared dead several hours later.

In a Wednesday press conference, Williams refused to say the killing was excessive force. On Friday, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra came to an agreement with the City of Vallejo and the Vallejo Police Department to collaborate on a comprehensive policing plan in an effort to modernize and reform VPD’s policies and practices and increase public trust.

On Friday night, the VPD sent out a press release explaining the situation with Monterrosa on Tuesday morning.

“As officers arrived, Mr. Monterrosa was attempting to flee with others in a vehicle. Rather than continuing his escape, Mr. Monterrosa chose to engage the responding officers,” the statement reads. “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. Fearing that Mr. Monterrosa was about to open fire on the officers in the vehicle, the officer was forced to fire multiple rounds through his windshield. The officer used deadly force as a last resort because he had no other reasonable option to prevent getting shot.”

Meanwhile, angry protesters shouted demands that the VPD release body cam footage. The department has 45 days to release the footage, while Williams has said he wants to release in a shorter time period.

The crowd remained peaceful for the most part until at least 8 p.m. Police kept their distance as well, with only a pair of officers on motorcycles a few blocks away as a helicopter also followed the march from the sky. The National Guard was also on hand at City Hall, but didn’t intercede during the rally. Many protesters were able to hug members of the National Guard moments before beginning the march.

“We’re here to show support for the community,” Sgt. James Fontenot said. “We want to take care of each other. The city asked us to be here and we were happy to do it. There’s been a lot of turmoil and we’re here to do whatever to keep everyone safe.”

Fontenot would not say how long the National Guard is in town, saying “We’re here for as long as the community needs us before directing us to go somewhere else.”

During the rally, Jorge Moreno, a longtime childhood friend of Monterrosa, spoke with passion and anger, but called for peace and an end to racial discrimination.

“Tonight, we want the badge off,” Moreno said. “This guy (Tonn) is an 18-year-old veteran. He knew what he was doing. They always do stuff like that and get away with it.

Intersections were blocked off at Sonoma Boulevard and Valle Vista Street, along with Sonoma and Redwood Street, Redwood and Couch Street, and Tennessee and Sonoma Boulevard. Most of the cars stuck in traffic seemed to be in support of the cause, honking and watching as protesters kneeled and raised their hands while shouting, “No justice, no peace. No racists, no peace” as well as, “Say his name, Sean Monterrrosa!”

While sitting at the intersection of Tennessee and Sonoma, Vallejoan Chiara Reeves yelled out, “Yeah we definitely look dangerous like this!”

Earlier in the night, Lynda and Jorge Moreno reflected on the life of Monterrosa and also the night he died. Jorge, along with other friends, have a group chat that has been going on for years.

“He (Monterrosa) sent a message out that night saying that ‘He was going out’ but he didn’t specify what he would be doing,” Lynda Moreno said. “Another friend said he had a bad feeling and told him to stay safe.”

“I think he found himself in a position he didn’t want to be in, but circumstances around him didn’t allow him to get out of it,” Lynda continued. “He got caught up in something he didn’t want. His girlfriend felt scared and called him up and I guess heard the whole thing on the phone. She heard gunshots and then she screamed his name over and over but didn’t hear a response.”

While Lynda said she’ll remember his laugh and smile, Jorge also said hearing the news of his friend’s death was very difficult.

“I found out from a friend calling me,” Jorge said. “I found out sitting on the couch he used to sleep on while he was living here. I was a little older than him, but he had a big heart.”

Protester DeMarcus Tanner said change needs to come immediately in the police department.

“Are you telling me five of these officers couldn’t have just gotten out and tackled him to take him down?” Tanner said. “Where does the gun come into play? Police officers are supposed to be there to protect, but where is the protection? We’re in a recession and nobody wants this. First we were losing lives due to the coronavirus, now we’re losing lives due to the police.”

Lynda Moreno also spoke of change, but needs to see it.

“There has been a lot of talk of it, but I haven’t seen it. They say they want to change, but say what you mean and mean what you say,” Lynda Moreno said. “Nobody should be abusing power like this.”

Vallejo Police Dept participating in national research project on police violence

The Vallejo Police Department is one of 88 different police agencies out of an estimated 18,000 agencies nationwide, voluntarily providing their use of force data to a Seattle based research project.

Experts Track Data to Reduce Police Violence

A five-year research study headed by Seattle University shows that detailed tracking of law enforcement use of force incidents can reduce injuries and racial disparities. However no single federal or state agency tracks all that data.
NBC Bay Area News Investigative Unit, By Stephen Stock, Robert Campos and Michael Horn, June 3, 2020

Some prominent Bay Area law enforcement officials now say that in wake of the tragic death of George Floyd under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer, all law enforcement departments nationwide should be required to turn over data showing how often their officers use force to make arrests or otherwise control the public.

Currently no single agency, federal or state, tracks when, where, and how police use force to make arrests or who they use the force on. More than a dozen law enforcement officials agreed with data scientists at Seattle University in telling NBC Bay Area that centralized tracking of police use of force incidents can protect both police officers and the people they serve.

Currently the FBI only collects data on deadly use of force from individual police departments and sheriff’s offices from around the country, some 18,000 different agencies in all. Providing data on the deadly use of force to the FBI is voluntary.

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While some individual agencies do their own analysis of use of force data experts and social scientists say those individual or private analyses can be restrictive because they only have one department’s data and the sample size can be small and therefore the conclusions are non-instructive. In other cases, experts say other law enforcement departments don’t analyze or even collect this specific data at all.

Those experts say that should change.

They say police officials can learn about unrecognized bias and more effective techniques, achieving better, less violent results by precisely tracking each use of force incident.

“It’s one of the most critical pieces of information we can collect about the police,” said Dr. Matthew Hickman, Chairman of the Department of Criminal Justice at Seattle University. “We really do need systematic data collection to help establish the reality of police use of force.”

“With these data, we can start to understand … how use of force incidents evolve,” said Dr. Hickman. And we can learn “what are the characteristics of those incidents that are more or less likely to lead to injury. And hopefully lead to better policies and training so that we can try to minimize injury.”

Because of that in 2015, Dr. Hickman teamed with a private company, Police Strategies LLC, also based in the Seattle area, to begin tracking data, voluntarily provided by police departments from around the country, showing precisely how, when and where police use force.

“It [use of force data collection] should be nationwide,” said Dr. Hickman. “And that’s really the shame of all this, is that the federal government has been required for 25 years to collect data on the use of excessive force by police and report on it annually. And they’ve never done that.”

According to US Bureau of Justice Statistics an estimated 53.5 million people nationwide had contact with a police officer between 2014 and 2015, events including everything from home welfare checks to emergency calls, from traffic stops to car accidents, from criminal arrests to shootings.

The US Justice Department estimates only a small percentage of those interactions between police and the public involve use of force by the officers, either non-lethal or lethal.

Except for lethal use of force, no one really knows details about exactly how often, what kind of force and who the force is used against.

Dr. Hickman and his team want to change that, but right now, only 88 different police agencies out of an estimated 18,000 agencies nationwide, voluntarily provide their use of force data to this research project. Among those are Bay Area police departments in Daly City, San Jose, Capitola and, most recently, Vallejo.

“There’s no standardization either statewide or certainly not nationally,” said Bob Scales, founding partner and current CEO of Police Strategies LLC. “You can’t have an evidence-based policy or evidence-based training if you have no data to back it up.”

“Many agencies have put their officers through de-escalation training, but without the data to see a ‘before’ and ‘after’ of the training, we don’t know if the training has had any impact on how officers behave and how they use force,” Scales said.

Scales comes from a strong law enforcement background and perspective. He served as a Deputy Prosecuting Attorney for King County, was the Assistant Director for Public Safety for the City of Seattle and was the Director of Government Affairs for the Seattle City Attorney before leaving to build his start-up Police Strategies, LLC.

“What we do is we help agencies essentially unlock all of that data information and then we help, we analyze it and then we provide it back to the departments,” said Scales who also served as the Compliance Coordinator for the Seattle Police Department during its implementation of a Consent Decree with the U.S. Department of Justice to resolve allegations of misuse of force.

One example of data’s impact on public safety: separate research conducted by the “Police Use of Force Project” shows that police departments which ban choke holds as acceptable techniques by their officers show significant reduction the number of use of force incidents that end in death for the public.

“Some agencies train their officers how to use this technique. And you have some agencies that prohibit the technique outright,” Scales said. “So we have this huge gamut of acceptable practices by police departments [around the country] for the same technique.”

“And [for] the agencies that do allow it, [the data shows] it’s a very effective technique,” Scales told NBC Bay Area. “It has risks. It has dangers. The Minneapolis situation was not an acceptable use of that technique.”

“We banned the chokehold … after, you know, after the unfortunate incident in New York with Eric Garner,” said San Jose Police Chief Eddie Garcia.

Chief Garcia says his department began giving Seattle University and Police Strategies, LLC their use of force data in 2015 to better track what his officers were doing right and what they could improve.

“To be able to see a transparent view of ‘this is what your officers are doing.’ ‘This is when they had to use force,’ ‘why they had to use force’ and ‘who they’re using force on.’  I think that’s incredibly important,” Chief Garcia told NBC Bay Area. And, you know, it’s about time that I think (this data collection) is legislated really not just in California, but throughout” the country.

Because of what the historical data showed about using baton and other hard objects to subdue suspect, Chief Garcia and his police training officers began asking his patrol officers to use tasers more frequently to subdue unruly people rather using than batons or nightsticks.

While tasers remain controversial, especially in the San Francisco Bay Area where critics say police officers tend to deploy Tasers too quickly to de-escalate volatile situations, sometimes, with deadly consequences.

But the data collected during the last five years shows clearly that in San Jose, actual injuries to the public are down where tasers replaced batons and nightsticks.

“We’re seeing fewer fractures and serious bodily injuries because they were using the Taser rather than a baton,” said Scales.

The Seattle University/Police Strategies LL” data analysis also shows San Jose Police Department’s saw use of force incidents dropped 13.4% from 2015 to 2019, the time period that the tracking has been taking place.  And some racial disparities appear to be diminishing during the same time period as well.  Five years ago, when San Jose police arrested a Hispanic man, there was an 11% greater chance they would use force than when they arrested a white man. Today that Hispanic person has a 2% lower chance than a white person of seeing force used on him by a police officer.

The same goes for Black and Asian suspects. The percentage who experienced force matched the percentage of their arrest population.

“We have a lot more work to do. But I think the expectation is that we are moving that needle in that, you know, that this tool absolutely helps us do that,” Chief Garcia said.

The Police Use of Force Project, agrees with those numbers, but still gives San Jose an “F” grade for its deadly use of force noting that in 2018 Hispanics were 3.4 times more likely to have deadly force used against them than white people.

Right now, experts say the biggest problem with trying to improve police/public interaction outcomes is that there’s not enough data analytics in enough police departments nationwide to say what works and what techniques are effective.

While some individual agencies do their own analysis of use of force data, Scales and Hickman say those analysis are restrictive because they only have one department’s data and the sample size can be small and non-instructive. Other departments don’t analyze or even collect this specific data at all.

Scales agrees with Chief Garcia in saying that only if law enforcement departments are required to turn over these specific data points tracking details of their officers’ use of force incidents will real police reform take place.

“You shouldn’t implement any reforms if you’re if you’re unable to measure the impacts,” said Scales. “It may be good training. It may be bad training or maybe a waste of money. We don’t know without the data.”

SF resident was kneeling when fatally shot by Vallejo police during civil unrest

Barricades on Amador Street keep traffic away from the Vallejo police station on Wednesday, a day after the shooting. Sean Monterrosa was shot and killed by a Vallejo officer outside a Walgreens early Tuesday.
Barricades on Amador Street keep traffic away from the Vallejo police station on Wednesday, a day after the shooting. Sean Monterrosa was shot and killed by a Vallejo officer outside a Walgreens early Tuesday.  [10 more photos here.]
San Francisco Chronicle, by Megan Cassidy June 3, 2020

The man fatally shot by Vallejo police as the city erupted in chaos Tuesday was kneeling outside a Walgreens and not carrying a firearm when an officer opened fire — sending five bullets through his own windshield.

Sean Monterrosa, 22, of San Francisco died after the shooting at around 12:30 a.m. Tuesday, but police did not tell the public the man was killed — or disclose the circumstances of the shooting — until Wednesday at a news conference outside City Hall, a day after calling in 50 troops from the National Guard to help control protests and rioting sparked by the Minnesota police killing of George Floyd.

In a Wednesday afternoon news conference, Vallejo Police Chief Shawny Williams 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.”

Williams did not say how far the officer, who was still in his vehicle, was from Monterrosa.

“Investigations later revealed that the weapon was a long, 15-inch hammer, tucked into the pocket of a sweatshirt,” Williams said.

The shooting is under investigation by the Vallejo police and the Solano County district attorney’s office. The officer, an 18-year veteran of the force, has been placed on administrative leave.

The killing early Tuesday morning occurred as protests, lootings and civil unrest erupted across the country. That evening in Vallejo, city officials said about 100 people and nearly 40 vehicles “surrounded” the police department, and rocks and bottles were thrown at officers.

The killing of Monterrosa, who was Latino, is almost certain to fan the flames of an already outraged community, after activists here say for years they have run up against a police department that has disproportionately targeted people of color and is rarely held accountable for its actions.

“My brother was murdered out here by a cop, too — they got no justice,” said Alicia Saddler, who is the sister of Angel Ramos, and who attended the press conference. “Now this man was on his knees? Unarmed? A hammer is not a weapon.”

For Ramos, whose 21-year-old brother was shot and killed by Vallejo police after they responded to a fight at a home, Monterrosa’s death was chillingly familiar.

“He should be here. He should be alive,” she said. “This cop needs to be arrested and taken to jail, period.”

The incidents leading to Monterrosa’s shooting began late Monday evening, when police responded to reports of a looting at a Walgreens on Broadway and Redwood Street, Williams said at the news conference.

Looters initially fled the scene, but about 12:15 a.m. looters had returned and were attempting to break into the building, Williams said. The responding unit reported seeing 10 to 12 potential looters in the parking lot, and police also saw a young man dressed in black, who appeared to be armed, in front of the building, Williams said.

As a police vehicle drove into the parking lot, at least one officer reported potential looters inside two vehicles, a black sedan and a silver truck.

Williams said officers in a second unit saw a single male dressed in black outside the Walgreens, “holding what appeared to be a weapon.”

“This individual appeared to be running toward the black sedan but suddenly stopped, taking a kneeling position, and placing his hands above his waist, revealing what appeared to be the butt of a handgun,” Williams said.

The officer in the second unit opened fire, striking Monterrosa once.

In police scanner traffic of the incident, an officer can be heard saying, “wearing all black, looks like they’re armed—possibly armed.”

“We got shots fired,” an officer is heard saying 22 seconds later.

After the shooting, police scanner traffic captured the ensuing scene, which Williams talked about at the press conference: The black sedan rammed one of the police vehicles, Williams said, which set off the airbag and injured an officer.

The two suspect vehicles fled the scene, prompting a chase into Contra Costa County, where the driver of the silver truck was apprehended, Williams said.

Civil rights attorney John Burris, who is representing Monterrosa’s family, said he was “troubled” by the shooting.

“Notwithstanding what he’s accused of doing, you don’t kill people because they’re looters,” he said.

Burris said he’s awaiting more information on the case, including police body camera footage of the incident.

At the press conference, Williams declined to answer reporters’ and advocates’ questions on whether he believed the officer’s use of force was excessive, but said policy doesn’t preclude police from firing through windshields.

“I would like to say since I’ve been here in the city of Vallejo, we have made many changes in terms of our de-escalation policy, in terms of our body-worn camera policy,” he said. “So there are there are big positive things that are happening.”

When a reporter asked asked how de-escalation was used in this case, Williams said the officers’ intent was to stop and arrest the perpetrators in the Walgreens area.

“The officers reacted to a perceived threat,” he said.

When asked why police waited so long to announce that the shooting was fatal, Williams said he didn’t yet have the information that Monterrosa had died. Williams said on Wednesday he was unaware of the time of Monterrosa’s death, and denied the suggestion that police waited until after the Tuesday evening protest to release the information.

Williams vowed to release body camera footage as soon as possible, prior to the required 45-day legal deadline, in the name of “rapid transparency.”

Vallejo police shot, killed 22-year-old on his knees after mistaking hammer for gun

ABC7 News, June 3, 2020

At the time he was shot, Monterrosa was on his knees, the police chief said.

VALLEJO, Calif. (KGO) — The Vallejo Police Department gave details Wednesday on an officer-involved shooting that left one person dead on Tuesday morning at 12:30 a.m.

22-year-old Sean Monterrosa was shot and killed by an unnamed officer. Chief Shawny Williams said the officer believed Monterrosa had a gun in his pocket, but it ended up being a 15-inch hammer.

At the time he was shot, Monterrosa was on his knees, Williams said.

The incident started at a Walgreens where officers say they saw two carloads of suspected looters who drove away from the scene. Officers chased the two cars. When they came across Monterrosa, they believed he was trying to get into one of the suspect vehicles.

The officer fired his weapon five times through the windshield of his patrol car. One round hit Monterrosa, killing him.

The department hasn’t released body camera or dash camera footage.

RELATED: Fatal Vallejo officer-involved shooting following Monday night looting

Chief Williams said Monterrosa was a San Francisco resident with a criminal record.

I-TEAM reporter Melanie Woodrow spoke with the victim’s family late Tuesday night who confirmed their son was shot and killed.

“I know this person was transported to the hospital but I don’t know this person’s condition,” said Vallejo Mayor Bob Sampayan. “I want our residents to know that whatever happened will be reported that it will be open and transparent.”

The city of Vallejo has since implemented an 8 p.m. curfew after Monday night’s looting, officer-involved shooting and someone setting fire inside City Hall.

In a Tuesday press conference addressing the fire that caused City Hall to close, Vallejo Police Chief Shawny Williams said he’s never experienced something like this before.

“In 27 years of service I’ve never experienced anything like what I experienced last night in the city of Vallejo,” said Chief Williams.

“This was a coordinated attack by organized individuals seeking to cause destruction and harm to our community,” he continued.

“I understand and I believe in the public’s right of protest of expressing your first amendment rights about the heinous murder of George Floyd but when it comes to the destruction of private and public property I don’t understand how that brings about the change people are asking for,” said Mayor Bob Sampayan.