VALLEJO (CBS SF) — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for a federal investigation Friday of the Vallejo police killing of Sean Monterrosa following word this week that evidence in the case had been destroyed.
Meanwhile, Vallejo city officials Friday urged the Solano County District Attorney’s Office to investigate the Monterrosa shooting and a second fatal officer-involved shooting, two cases in which the DA Krishna Abrams has recused herself.
“The police killing of Sean Monterrosa was a horrible act of brutality that continues to shake our Bay Area community,” said Pelosi in a prepared statement. “Recent reports that key evidence in the investigation was destroyed are deeply disturbing and highlight the urgency and necessity of an outside, independent federal investigation.”
“I join Sean’s family, Vallejo city officials and community members in calling for an FBI investigation into Sean’s murder, including into the destruction of essential evidence in this homicide case,” Pelosi said.
On Wednesday, Vallejo officials announced a city employee had been placed on leave after it was discovered the bullet-damaged windshield from the patrol car involved in the shooting had been destroyed and not preserved as evidence in the case.
Monterrosa, a 22-year-old San Francisco resident, was shot and killed by an officer in June as police responded to looting at a Walgreens. The officer who shot him through the windshield of the moving police car claimed he thought Monterrosa had a gun, but it turned out he had a hammer.
Vallejo Interim City Attorney Randy Risner sent a letter Thursday calling on Abrams to complete reviews of the officer-involved shootings of Monterrosa and of Willie McCoy, a 20-year-old rap artist who died in a hail of bullets in a fast-food drive-thru in February 2019 after he had passed out with a gun on his lap.
Adrams recused herself from the investigations last month, and earlier this week she reiterated her recusal, saying it was “due to the perceived conflict of handling either one of them.”
Earlier this week, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra sent a letter to Vallejo City Manager Greg Nyhoff saying his office would not review the Monterrosa shooting as had been requested, saying he believes the DA is the appropriate and obligated authority.
“As we have informed the District Attorney’s Office, there is no legal basis for it to recuse itself,” the letter said. “It is absolutely critical that the shootings of Mr. McCoy and Mr. Monterossa receive thorough, fair and objective evaluations by the prosecuting authority charged with carrying out the duty. The elected District Attorney in Solano County is that authority.”
Vallejo Police Department has a history of controversial use-of-force incidents, including deadly shootings, and last month Becerra announced his agency would do a comprehensive review of the department’s policies.
“Absent a conflict of interest, an abuse of discretion or other exceptional circumstances, the Department of Justice does not assume responsibility for local investigations or prosecutions typically handled by local authorities,” said a spokesperson for the attorney general’s office in an email to KPIX 5. “DOJ does not receive the funding or staffing to enable us to conduct independent investigations or prosecutions of officer involved shooting incidents throughout the state.”
“We owe it to our community to see a fair and independent review completed,” said Nyhoff in a prepared statement. “A thorough investigation must be done immediately, accurately, and without prejudice so we can move forward as a community. Investigating officer-involved shootings is the obligation of the District Attorney, and the City will pursue all necessary steps to ensure that the DA delivers on her responsibilities. Vallejo will not sit idly by and wait for these cases to be reviewed.”
According to the Solano County fatal-incident protocol, officer-involved shootings trigger a police internal affairs investigation and an investigation by the Solano County DA’s Office.
Police Chief Shawny Williams has also requested an additional third-party administrative investigation, and that investigation has since begun, according to the City of Vallejo press office.