The family of Sean Monterrosa, a 22-year-old fatally shot by police in Vallejo, California, in June, is suing the city and the officer involved.
The federal civil rights lawsuit filed Thursday accuses the Vallejo Police Department of not disciplining or re-training police officer Jarett Tonn despite a “shocking history of shooting his gun at civilians.” Tonn was reportedly involved in three other shootings in the past five years (the suspects all survived). It also accuses the city of destroying evidence by replacing the windshield of the truck that Tonn shot through and putting the vehicle back into service.
At a press conference in Vallejo Thursday, civil rights attorney John Burris, who filed the suit and is representing the family, called Tonn’s actions “flat out murder.” The suit calls Tonn “trigger-happy.”
“It’s hard — we lost our only brother,” Monterrosa’s sister, Michelle, said at the press conference “This is not the end. We will do everything we can to make sure my brother gets justice.”
On June 2, Monterrosa was killed when Vallejo police officers responded to reports of looting on the night of a Black Lives Matter protest. According to the police report, the officers saw a man (later identified as Monterrosa) outside a Walgreens who “appeared to be armed” and who ran toward a car, then turned to face officers and crouched. Monterrosa, it turned out, was not carrying a gun — he had a hammer in his sweatshirt pocket, per the report. The lawsuit says Monterrosa was “unarmed, on his knees” and with nothing in his hands when he was shot.
Officers shot at Monterrosa five times, killing him. The lawsuit claims Tonn fired an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle at Monterrosa through the windshield of an unmarked pickup truck.
Tonn and other officers present were placed on paid administrative leave. None so far has been fired, arrested or charged.
Vallejo police responded to the lawsuit in a statement to HuffPost: “Our hearts go out to the Monterrosa family during this difficult time. We respect their right to initiate legal action and we respect the judicial process to follow.”
Monterrosa’s family has repeatedly called for California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to launch an independent investigation into the shooting. Becerra’s office did not immediately return HuffPost’s request for comment. Becerra’s office confirmed to HuffPost Thursday that they will not investigate the shooting itself, pointing to remarks from Becerra last month saying, “We’re not equipped to take on every case like this.” However last month his office announced an investigation into alleged destruction of evidence in the case.
House speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has called for the FBI to investigate the shooting.
In July, Monterrosa’s sisters rallied in Sacramento with other family members of police brutality victims.
“We are sick and tired of murderers being on the force and still getting paid, yet no convictions,” Michelle Monterrosa said in a video after the rally, provided to HuffPost.
The family’s lawsuit comes after over two months of protests against racism and police brutality nationwide. Sean Monterrosa is one of several young Latino men to be killed by police in California in recent months.
“Don’t wait until one of yours is taken in the hands of police brutality to speak up,” Michelle Monterrosa said.
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