A Vallejo police officer fatally shot a man suspected of looting who was kneeling outside of a Walgreens store early Tuesday morning after mistaking a hammer in his sweatshirt pocket for the butt of a handgun, the city’s police chief said Wednesday.
Sean Monterrosa, 22, of San Francisco, died in the shooting, which Vallejo Police Chief Shawny Williams talked about at a Wednesday afternoon news conference outside of Vallejo City Hall.
Williams described a “horrific” Monday night into early Tuesday, when looting and vandalism had followed demonstrations around the Bay Area over the death of unarmed black man George Floyd under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer last week. Even City Hall had an overnight break-in and fire set in a first-floor human resources office that caused damage and has prompted the building’s closure since then.
Williams said in the shooting of Monterrosa, officers initially responded at 10:17 p.m. Monday to the Walgreens store in the 1000 block of Redwood Street on various riot-related calls for service, although the alleged looters had fled the scene before officers arrived. Then at about 12:15 a.m. Tuesday, police received a call that looters had returned and were trying to break into the pharmacy on the east side of the building.
Responding officers who arrived at the scene reported two vehicles that started driving out of the parking lot, the chief said. A silver truck drove around the first responding police car while a black-colored sedan then rammed into the police car, causing its airbag to be deployed and the vehicle to be disabled, Williams said.
Officers in a second police car saw a man in a black hooded sweatshirt on the east side of the building who began running toward the black sedan, but then suddenly stopped, kneeled and put his hands above his waist.
An officer, an 18-year veteran believing he saw the butt of a handgun, fired five shots through the windshield of the police vehicle, striking the man once, the chief said. The officer’s name has not yet been released.
The man, later identified as Monterrosa, was taken to a hospital and succumbed to his injuries there, and investigators learned the item in his possession was a 15-inch hammer in his sweatshirt pocket.
Of the two vehicles that fled the scene, the silver truck was later taken into custody in Contra Costa County, police said.
Community members criticizing the shooting prompted the Vallejo police news conference Wednesday to end abruptly.
Vallejo police and the Solano County District Attorney’s Office are conducting joint investigations into the fatal shooting.
A GoFundMe account on behalf of Monterrosa’s family had raised more than $56,000 as of Wednesday night. The creators of the page said civil rights attorney John Burris will take on the case, and that half of the donation fund will go to funeral costs while the other half will go to legal fees.
Dan McMenamin, Bay City News