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California AG Bonta Declines to Charge Vallejo Officer Who Shot, Killed Sean Monterrosa

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A rally is taking place with two women at a podium. One holds a microphone. A large photo of a man is behind them.
Sisters Ashley and Michelle Monterrosa speak from a truck during a protest for justice for their brother Sean and others killed by the Vallejo Police Department on July 11, 2020. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

California Attorney General Rob Bonta is not charging the Vallejo police officer who shot and killed Sean Monterrosa three years ago, Bonta’s office announced Tuesday afternoon.

Officer Jarrett Tonn fatally shot Monterossa in June 2020 in a Walgreens parking lot. The 22-year-old’s death shook the Bay Area and amplified protests against police brutality happening that summer after a Minneapolis police officer killed George Floyd.

“The family and I met with Mr. Bonta at his office in San Francisco, where the news was broken to us. They were devastated,” Lee Merritt, a civil rights attorney representing Monterrosa’s family, told KQED. “It’s not only disappointing that there hasn’t been sufficient evidence gathered to move forward [with charges], but that it took three years to reach that conclusion.”

In a statement released Tuesday, Bonta said there was not enough evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the officer did not act in self-defense.

“Sean Monterrosa’s life mattered, and there is nothing that can make up for his death. His loss is and will continue to be felt by his family and the Bay Area community,” said Attorney General Bonta in his decision announcement. “It’s critical that these difficult incidents undergo a transparent, fair, and thorough review.”

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Bonta’s office said they reviewed dispatch records, 911 calls, surveillance video, witness interviews and an autopsy report.

According to the Department of Justice investigation, Monterrosa and three others broke into the Walgreens shortly after midnight. While the burglary was happening, Monterrosa exited the store and ran away from the officers toward a black sedan.

Police body camera footage shows Tonn firing multiple shots from the back of the unmarked truck, one of which fatally struck Monterrosa in the back of the head.

Police testified that they thought Monterrosa had a gun. He did not. He was found carrying a hammer.

After the shooting, an officer shot through the windshield of their vehicle. The broken window was discarded when a new one was installed. The DOJ investigated whether tossing the windshield was destruction of evidence but determined that the officers who replaced the window were not connected to the shooting, according to Bonta’s statement Tuesday.

In 2021, an independent analysis of the police response on the night of Monterrosa’s death found that the officers failed to de-escalate the situation and flouted department policies. Tonn was subsequently fired and then reinstated to the Vallejo Police Department in August 2023.

While criminal charges won’t be filed, Monterrosa’s family is still pursuing a civil lawsuit against the city and Tonn. The civil case alleges that Tonn violated the Fourth Amendment when he used deadly force on Monterrosa and that practices at Vallejo’s Police Department foster dangerous encounters like the one that killed Monterrosa, Lee said.

More Stories on Vallejo Police Department

Between 2010 and late 2020, Vallejo police officers killed 19 people, the second-highest rate among America’s 100 largest police forces.

In response to mounting public criticism, Bonta now requires the Vallejo Police Department to implement sweeping reforms to how it approaches policing.

In October, the Department of Justice entered a court-mandated agreement with Vallejo to drastically reform its practices and culture around policing. Vallejo had already been engaged with the state on the reforms but had fallen drastically short of meeting its goals and timeline.

Bonta’s new plan with the city requires an independent auditor to monitor Vallejo’s progress on a long list of changes, including racial disparities in policing, de-escalation techniques and community engagement.

KQED’s Azul Dahlstrom-Eckman contributed to this story.

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