SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP/CBS13) — California Attorney General Rob Bonta said Thursday his office will review the fatal shooting of a San Francisco Bay Area man who police say they initially thought was carrying a handgun in his waistband but actually had a hammer.
Bonta repeatedly criticized Solano County District Attorney Krishna Abrams for not conducting her own review of last year’s death of 22-year-old Sean Monterrosa by Vallejo police, saying she was fully capable but chose not to do so. Bonta’s predecessor, Xavier Becerra, had declined to take up the investigation for the same reason.READ MORE: Sacramento Police Investigate Explosion, Homemade Fireworks In North Sacramento
“I made it clear that she should conduct the investigation,” Bonta said. “In the absence of her doing so, we will do so because fairness requires a complete process — not a process that ends with an investigation and a file that’s gathering dust on someone’s desk somewhere, but a review of that investigation, and a decision.”
Abrams had asked the attorney general’s office to take over the investigation, saying in June that “an independent review is needed at this time to restore public trust and provide credibility, transparency and oversight.”
Bonta’s office said local officials’ investigation into Monterrosa’s death was completed on March 10 and given to Abrams’ office for review. But Abrams, it said, attempted to turn the file over to the attorney general’s office “without invitation or notice.”
A law that goes into effect in July will require the attorney general to investigate officer-involved shootings of unarmed civilians. But Bonta said it doesn’t apply in this case.
Abrams’ office did not immediately respond Thursday to a request for comment.
Monterrosa, 22, of San Francisco was suspected of stealing from a San Francisco Bay Area pharmacy amid national protests when he was killed June 2 by an officer who fired five times through a police car windshield, hitting Monterrosa once.
Vallejo Police Chief Shawny Williams said at the time that Monterrosa dropped to his knees and put his hands above his waist, revealing what the officer took to be the butt of a handgun. But it turned out to be a 15-inch hammer in the pocket of his sweatshirt.READ MORE: Man Drowns While Trying To Help Brother Struggling To Swim In New Melones Lake
He was killed when a detective fired five times through the windshield from inside an unmarked police vehicle, striking Monterrosa once.
The windshield, considered a key piece of evidence, was destroyed, leading city officials to seek a criminal investigation into how that happened.
The Vallejo police department has come under repeated criticism in other cases as well.
Separately, in July, Williams said he was starting an independent investigation after two people in the department said officers had their badges bent to mark on-duty killings.
The department has had several other controversial slayings by police, including that of Willie McCoy, 20, of Suisun City, in February 2019. McCoy was killed after he fell asleep with a gun in his lap in his car in a Taco Bell drive-thru. Six Vallejo officers fired 55 shots.
Vallejo agreed in November to pay $750,000 to settle a civil rights lawsuit by Carl Edwards, a handyman who was left bloodied after he was beaten and choked by Vallejo police in 2017.
Bonta said there is no timeframe for completing what he said would be an impartial and thorough investigation of Monterrosa’s death.
“Wherever the facts and the law lead, that’s where we’ll go,” he said. ”If there is wrongdoing, we’ll bring it to light. If the facts do not lead to a charging decision, we will explain it.”MORE NEWS: Grass Fire Threatens Structures, Forces Evacuations In Elk Grove
State Sen. Bill Dodd, a Democrat from nearby Napa, praised Bonta’s decision, saying he had wanted an independent investigation all along. “It’s crucial that we have a thorough and impartial review of the facts and get accountability for any wrongdoing,” Dodd said in a statement.