State Attorney General Won't Investigate Vallejo Police's Fatal Shooting of Sean Monterrosa

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra declined Wednesday to independently investigate the fatal shooting of Sean Monterrosa by Vallejo police which took place earlier this month amid ongoing protests in the wake of George Floyd's killing at the hands of Minneapolis police.

Monterrosa, 22, of San Francisco, was shot in the early hours of June 2 after officers said they observed him running when they responded to reports of a break-in at a Walgreens.

Vallejo Police Chief Shawny Williams said Monterrosa dropped to his knees and put his hands above his waist, revealing what an officer took to be the butt of a handgun. It turned out to be a hammer in the pocket of his sweatshirt. Monterrosa was then killed by an officer who fired five times through the windshield of his police vehicle.

Solano County District Attorney Krishna Abrams had asked Becerra to investigate, saying the community had lost trust in her ability to investigate a police shooting. But Becerra's office said Abrams didn't show that her office was incapable of handling the investigation on its own.

"Absent a conflict of interest, an abuse of discretion or other exceptional circumstances, the Department of Justice does not assume responsibility for local investigations or prosecutions typically handled by local authorities," Becerra's office said, expressing confidence in Abrams to handle the matter.

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Three days after Monterrosa's killing, on June 5, Becerra's office announced plans to review and reform the Vallejo Police Department. Becerra's office said that includes helping the city overcome what Abrams called a lack of public trust in the process that she oversees.

Abrams objected to Becerra declining to investigate Monterrosa's death despite an agreement by multiple city, county and state elected officials and community members that it is warranted.

"While I am confident that my office can conduct a fair and thorough review of all officer-involved shootings, an independent review is needed at this time to restore public trust and provide credibility, transparency and oversight," she wrote.

Civil rights attorney John Burris, who is representing Sean Monterrosa's family, also criticized Becerra's decision.

"This was a missed opportunity on the part of the attorney general’s office to really interject and show some leadership and provide some real direction and hope for many communities... that have lost trust and faith it the district attorney’s office."

Asked if Abrams' office was capable of conducting the investigation, Burris said: "All I can say is she hasn't done it in the past. We've had a number of cases — some of which were pretty outrageous — and she has not prosecuted any of those, so we don't know whether she's really capable or not, as it relates to prosecutions."

Burris has represented several other families of people killed by Vallejo police in recent years.

This story includes reporting from The Associated Press, KQED's Tara Siler and David Marks.