Nora Monterrosa, mother of Sean, speaks during a protest for justice for her son and others killed by the Vallejo Police Department, on July 11, 2020. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)
A public display of anguish and agony poured from the family of Sean Monterrosa, Saturday after hundreds marched to the Vallejo police station.
Monterrosa, 22, was shot and killed by police, who the protesters condemned after the Vallejo Police Department released body camera footage of the incident on Wednesday.
Saturday, Monterrosa's family called for the police to release footage from other police officers and nearby businesses for the sake of transparency.
Vallejo PD were responding to reports of break-ins at a Walgreens on June 2 when they encountered Monterrosa at a Walgreens parking lot. Police say they thought he had a gun. A hammer was later found in his pocket.
Wednesday’s video doesn’t show the events leading up to the shooting, the cameras began recording only seconds before Monterrosa was shot. By the time Monterrosa is seen in the footage, he is laying down, dead.
They also called into question Vallejo PD’s Police Chief Shawny Williams’ response to the incident.
“Why is it that Shawny Williams, on his press conference of June 3, he was talking like he had already seen the video? He was talking like my brother was on his knees with his hands up, he acted like he already knew everything that had happened,” said Ashley Monterrosa, Sean Monterrosa’s sister.
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At a press conference on Wednesday, Williams said Monterrosa was "in a crouching, half-kneeling position. His hands were toward his waistband" — walking back his earlier statement that described Monterrosa as kneeling when the officer fired, with his hands above his waist.
Members of the Monterrosa family fought back tears as they thanked the crowd for the continued support. “It's not just Vallejo’s fight. It's the whole Bay Area’s fight,” said Michelle Monterrosa, another sister of Sean Monterrosa.
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The organizers of the protest, Vessels of Vallejo, said they want Vallejo police to release all footage related to Monterrosa’s case, including the body camera footage of every officer called to the scene the night when Monterrosa was shot and killed. Wednesday’s video shows body camera footage from three officers, but more officers can be seen responding at the scene in the recordings.
At the protest, civil rights lawyer John Burris, who is representing the Monterrosa family, said officers’ body cameras were not used properly. Burris said that while some body cameras were turned on, others were not. “We have been told that they did not turn on at the critical moment when the shooting took place. It’s hard to believe, and we do not believe it.” Burris added that critical evidence that could be used against police was missing.
The Monterrosa's were joined at the protest by families of others also killed by Vallejo PD, including the family of Eric Reason, Willie McCoy and Mario Romero.
Eric Reason’s brother Rob Reason started the Frontline Activist Movement (FAM), a coalition and support group for families of those killed by Vallejo police, after the death of his brother. “I gave up hope on the Vallejo police. They are not going to do their jobs. But you know what? We are going to do our jobs. We are going to look out for each other,” Reason said.
Vallejo City Council Member Robert McConnell stopped by the protest to lend his support. He encouraged demonstrators to keep advocating for systemic change in the police department. “There are certain things the city council can do, and certain things it cannot do," McConnell said, "but we can't do anything without your support, your involvement.”
Vallejo PD says it’s called for an independent, third-party investigation of Monterrosa’s case by the OIR group, a police oversight agency.
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