Early in the morning of June 2, a police officer shot 22-year-old Sean Monterrosa near a Walgreens Pharmacy in Vallejo, California, said Vallejo Police Chief Shawny Williams during a tense press conference on Wednesday. According to Williams, police were first called to the Walgreens at 10:17 p.m. on June 1 amid reports of looting. At 12:15 a.m., officers received a second call indicating that looters had returned to the Walgreens and were attempting to break into the pharmacy.
According to reports, officers arrived on the scene and reported a crowd of 10 to 12 people in the parking lot at 12:36 a.m. Officers then observed the crowd filing into two vehicles, a silver truck and a black sedan. Police claim the black sedan then rammed into the unmarked cruiser, injuring the officer inside, before speeding out of the parking lot behind the silver truck. The silver truck was apprehended shortly thereafter, Williams reported.
Sometime before the black sedan fled the scene, police say they saw Monterrosa running toward the sedan. According to Williams, Monterrosa got on his knees and lifted his hands above his waist, revealing a 15-inch hammer in his sweatshirt pocket which an officer mistook for a gun. The officer then fired five times through the windshield of the police vehicle and struck Monterrosa once, according to police.
Monterrosa was taken to the hospital, and authorities were alerted to his death some hours later. A GoFundMe page was organized on behalf of Monterrosa’s family to pay for the funeral and legal expenses. The family is represented by John L. Burress, a civil rights and police misconduct lawyer based in the Bay Area.
“I would say that it’s always a tragedy anytime an officer has to use force,” Williams said. “My condolences to his family. It is a difficult thing to happen, I understand that.”
According to Williams, all of the officers present at the scene have been placed on paid administrative leave while the Vallejo Police Department and Solano County District Attorney conduct a joint investigation. Williams added that the officer involved was an 18-year veteran of the police force.
During the Press Conference, Williams Described an ‘Orchestrated, Organized Assault’ on Vallejo the Night of Monterrosa’s Death
On the night of Monterrosa’s death, Williams claimed that Vallejo experienced unprecedented crime. According to Williams’ statement, many businesses were destroyed or severely damaged.
“Monday was a horrific night, something we haven’t seen in 27 years. It was an orchestrated, organized assault on our city,” Williams said. “There were social media advertisements to come to Vallejo and commit looting and crime.”
Williams also detailed Monterrosa’s criminal history, which includes shoplifting, petty theft, illegal weapons violations, assault with a deadly weapon, shooting into an inhabited dwelling, carrying a loaded firearm in a vehicle, possession of narcotics for sale and attempted murder.
Press Conference Attendees Expressed Outrage at the Circumstances Surrounding Monterrosa’s Death
The press conference ended with tensions running high. Several reporters expressed incredulity that Monterrosa had been shot on his knees by an officer in a nearby vehicle. Two hours after the conference, protesters organized a demonstration outside Vallejo City Hall, according to a tweet from San Francisco Chronicle reporter Megan Cassidy.
Others took to social media to demand justice for Monterrosa. Some compared Monterrosa’s death to the deadly shooting of Willie McCoy, a 20-year-old aspiring rapper who was shot 53 times by Vallejo police while asleep in his car at a Taco Bell in 2019, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. On Wednesday, California Assemblymember Tim Grayson issued a statement demanding that the California attorney general or a federal agency investigate Monterrosa’s death.
“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, in terms of the way that we analyze and look at force, so there are many positive things that are happening in the city of Vallejo,” said Williams.
#8CantWait, a project by Campaign Zero to implement eight policies that reduce police violence, reported that Vallejo had only two of those policies in place. According to the site, Vallejo does not ban chokeholds, strangleholds, or shooting at moving vehicles. The city also does not require de-escalation attempts, comprehensive reporting from police or exhausting other options before shooting, the site says.