Michelle Soto-Vancil was 15 when she thought her dad was Superman.
“He did tell me, ‘never tell anyone your father’s a police officer, because people might want to hurt you.’ But, no, the thought that he might get hurt never crossed my mind,” Soto-Vancil said. “He earned a medal of valor for chasing a robber who was shooting at him when he was off duty, and I thought, ‘well, he did that, so …'”
So in June of 1994 when Oakland police officer Miguel “Mike” Soto was checking on what he thought was a broken down Toyota, Michelle never imagined the wanted robbery suspect inside would end up shooting her father four times – the last bullet with the driver standing over the officer and firing into his head.
“He was amazing. He was an outdoorsman, a river-rafting instructor. He loved gadgets. He would have been the first one to have an iPod. I look at my kids – what would he have thought? What would he have thought about being a grandpa?” Soto-Vancil said.
Over two decades later, the searing pain is still palpable.
“He taught at the academy, and he used to say, ‘It doesn’t matter how the public treats you. It doesn’t matter how the worst person treats you, as long as at the end of the day you get to go home, you had a good day,’ and I want every officer out there to have a good day, every day,” Soto-Vancil said.
She used to work in downtown Oakland and bristled at the aftermath of anti-police brutality protests. It got so infuriating that she quit her job and went to work for a well-known law firm.
“I defend police officers, and I hate to say that word – because to have that good day, sometimes they have to do the things they have to do – they shouldn’t have to be defended,” Soto-Vancil said.
She knows that’s an unpopular position given the anti-police backlash and the blatant targeting of law enforcement.
“I have OPD memorial stickers on my car. I had a license plate frame on my car. I’m afraid to drive down the street with my father’s memorial stickers on my car, because God forbid anything happens to my kids that’s in my car,” she said.