VALLEJO, Calif. (AP) — Video released Wednesday shows a Vallejo police detective in a pickup truck firing a rifle through the windshield, killing a man officers thought had a gun but turned out to be carrying a hammer.
The killing of 22-year-old Sean Monterrosa just after midnight on June 2 in Vallejo has prompted protests.
Vallejo Police Chief Shawny Williams initially said the San Francisco man was kneeling at the time. In the video released by police, Williams said a detective described what he believed was Monterrosa “turning towards the officers in a crouching-down, half-kneeling position, as if in preparation to shoot.”
The detective also saw Monterrosa appear to grab at the butt of a gun at his waist. It turned out to be the handle of a 15-inch hammer tucked into his sweatshirt pocket.
Monterrosa’s family members and their attorneys watched the video for the first time Wednesday at City Hall and expressed doubts that Monterrosa posed a threat to officers.
“Everyone’s playing hot potato over my brother’s death,” Michelle Monterrosa, Monterrosa’s sister, said after seeing the video. “Sean deserves to be here. … It just shows how the system continues to fail us all.”
“Nobody saw a gun, they couldn’t have seen a gun because he didn’t have a gun,” attorney Melissa Nold said.
The shooting has sparked protests over that and other incidents involving the Vallejo department, which has one of the highest rates of police shootings in the state.
Monterrosa was suspected of being with several men thought to be stealing from the pharmacy on a night of national protests over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
The video contains body camera footage from three detectives who were inside the unmarked truck, which they were using to respond to reports of stealing at a Walgreens. Some of the video from inside the truck is silent, and none of it shows the actual shooting.
The pickup didn’t have a dashboard camera, making it impossible to see Monterrosa’s position before the shooting. An outside store security camera that might have captured the shooting had been destroyed in a previous theft, police said.
The video also contains audio from a police captain who was heading to the pharmacy in an unmarked SUV, telling a dispatcher that the suspects might be armed.
Video from inside the pickup shows a rifle being fired five times through the windshield by a detective in the back seat.
The driver then gets out and stands by the truck door with his gun drawn.
The detective who fired asks: “What did he point at us?”
“I don’t know man,” another detective replies.
“Hey, he pointed a gun at us!” the detective with the rifle yells. Detectives with guns raised approach Monterrosa.
“Don’t move! Do not move!” police are heard yelling, apparently at Monterrosa, who in other angles is seen lying on the ground outside of the store. The detectives approach shouting: “Hands up! Hands up!”
Later, camera footage shows a police officer performing chest compressions on Monterrosa, who was struck by a single shot. He was pronounced dead at a hospital.
The officer who fired was an 18-year veteran, the chief said.
He has been placed on paid administrative leave. The Solano County District Attorney recused her office from further review of the shooting.
Attorney General Xavier Becerra declined to independently investigate the shooting; however, his office agreed last month to take up a wider review of the Vallejo Police Department’s policing policies and practices.