Bay Area Cop Shoots Kneeling Guy, May Get Away With It Because America
A cop in Vallejo, California, shot and killed a San Francisco man suspected of attempting to loot a Walgreens early Tuesday morning, but the police waited a day and a half, until Wednesday afternoon, to release news of the killing. At a presser outside Vallejo's City Hall, Police Chief Shawny Williams explained that Sean Monterrosa, 22, was kneeling in the parking lot of the store, but the officer thought Monterrosa had a gun and shot him "due to this perceived threat." It was apparently really threatening, because the cop fired five shots through his own windshield. One of those five shots hit and killed Monterrosa. Who was, we'll say again, on his knees.
Turns out Monterrosa didn't have a gun. Instead, he had a hammer in the pocket of his sweatshirt. Or as Williams put it, "Investigations later revealed that the weapon was a long, 15-inch hammer," so even if it wasn't a gun, and Monterrosa wasn't brandishing it, he was still very dangerous, don't you good law abiding folks agree?
The San Francisco Chronicle explains that Monterrosa was shot and killed at 12:30 a.m. Tuesday, after a night of riots in the Bay area, although the events leading up to the shooting started late Monday. Police responded to reports of attempted looting at the Walgreens, at which point a bunch of people fled the scene. But they returned shortly after midnight, Williams said, and were trying to break into the store. The unit that responded
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.
Sure is a lot of potential in this story.
"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.
And that was enough, apparently, for the cop in the second unit on the scene to open fire on the guy. From that description, it's hard to know whether Monterrosa appeared to be reaching for his "weapon," although that doesn't make a hell of a lot of sense, since Monterrosa presumably knew what was in his pocket.
Williams did say body cam recordings would be released as soon as possible in the interest of "rapid transparency." California law requires the release of such footage within 45 days. It's of some comfort, one supposes, that the cops' body cams were actually on. Hooray, Vallejo PD, at least you are not Louisville, Kentucky!
As the Guardian notes, the Vallejo Police Department has some history:
The last person killed by Vallejo police was Willie McCoy, a 20-year-old who had been sleeping in his car in February 2019 when six officers fired 55 bullets in 3.5 seconds. One of the six officers who killed McCoy, a rising rapper in the Bay Area, had previously killed an unarmed man who was fleeing on his bike. Another Vallejo officer killed three men in a five-month period and was subsequently promoted.
Vallejo, a city 30 miles north-east of San Francisco with 121,000 residents, has over the years had a significantly higher rate of killings by police than the national average and other Bay Area cities.
Williams didn't say just how far away from Monterrosa the cop was when he shot from inside his patrol car at the kneeling man, but the chief did note that department policy doesn't forbid officers from shooting through their vehicles' windshields, so there's a thing to know. Williams also "declined to answer reporters' and advocates' questions" about whether he considered the shooting to be an excessive use of force.
"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 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.
Well that sure was some good de-escalation.
Melissa Nold, a civil rights attorney who's representing Monterrosa's family, didn't seem all that impressed by all the positive developments in the Vallejo PD, as the Guardian reports.
When confronted by the police, he dropped to his knees and surrendered, and they fired at him [...] He wasn't doing anything to warrant it. They shot him from inside their car. What opportunity did they give him to survive that situation? … It's egregiously bad.
The delay in announcing details of the killing was another real feather in the Vallejo PD's cap. Monterrossa died in a hospital in the wee hours Tuesday morning, but at a Tuesday afternoon press conference on protests in the city, officials merely said there had been an "officer-involved shooting," without offering any details or saying it had been fatal.
Nold was disgusted by both the timing and the delay, saying she believed Williams knew what had actually happened early on.
We're protesting for a guy who lived thousands of miles away. And the day we're marching, our own police are gunning down an unarmed man on his knees.
At Wednesday's presser, a day and a half after the shooting, Williams claimed he simply hadn't known on Tuesday that Monterrosa had died. He also denied the department had waited until after Tuesday night's protests to make the information public. If preventing protests was the goal, that didn't work so well, as protests across the Bay Area continued Wednesday and Thursday. And the list of people injured and killed by cops in recent days just keeps getting longer and longer.
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