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Vallejo police union rebuts report that says officer violated policy

San Francisco Chronicle logo San Francisco Chronicle 12/4/2021 By Andres Picon
Protesters stand near the Vallejo Police Department during a protest against the police killing of Sean Monterrosa in Vallejo, Calif., Friday, June 5, 2020. The Vallejo Police Officers’ Association on Friday denounced an independent report’s findings that the officer who killed Monterrosa violated department policy. © Chris Preovolos/Hearst Newspapers

Protesters stand near the Vallejo Police Department during a protest against the police killing of Sean Monterrosa in Vallejo, Calif., Friday, June 5, 2020. The Vallejo Police Officers’ Association on Friday denounced an independent report’s findings that the officer who killed Monterrosa violated department policy.

The Vallejo Police Officers’ Association on Friday denounced the conclusion released by independent investigators Thursday that one of its members violated police department policy when he killed Sean Monterrosa last year, saying that the investigative report was tainted by “political and personal motivations.”

The police officers’ union did not specify how or why the report’s findings may have been “politically motivated.” It only said that the report’s conclusions “did not meet the basic standards of objectivity, fitness, and due process.”

“The POA is confident that the officer’s actions that evening in response to an imminent threat were objectively reasonable under the totality of the circumstances and we are looking forward to a neutral, unbiased, and apolitical arbitrator to overturn these findings,” the police officer’s association said in a statement, adding that it invites scrutiny into its members’ actions and that it is supporting its members through the discipline process.

Officer Jarrett Tonn killed Monterrosa on June 2, 2020, during a night of civil unrest in Vallejo following the murder of George Floyd. Tonn fired his service rifle five times through his unmarked police vehicle’s windshield as Monterrosa knelt outside of a Walgreens store. One bullet fatally struck the 22-year-old San Francisco resident in the back of the head.

In an independent report released Thursday, investigators said that Tonn’s “determination to use deadly force was not objectively reasonable” because he and other officers at the scene made no efforts to de-escalate the situation, a violation of Vallejo police policy at the time.

Officers involved in the shooting told investigators they thought Monterrosa had a gun, but he did not. He had a hammer in one of his pockets. Officers said they saw him get down on one knee and grab something from near his waistband “a millisecond” before Tonn shot him, according to the report.


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“As is often the case, the involved officer(s) were ordered to respond to a dangerous and unpredictable situation, and were forced to make split-second decisions with lives potentially hanging in the balance,” the police officers’ association said in its statement. “The concepts of de-escalation, although valuable, are not the appropriate tactics or techniques when a subject appears to be pulling a gun from their waistband.”

The police union said it was “confident” that Tonn’s decision to shoot Monterrosa was “objectively reasonable under the totality of the circumstances” and encouraged members of the public to review the report and other investigative materials.

“Any officer or person would recognize (Monterrosa’s) actions to constitute an imminent threat of death or great bodily injury,” the police officers’ association said in its statement.

At least one officer or detective that night violated the police department’s body camera policy, according to the report, though it did not identify them. Officers and detectives at the scene activated their body camera only after Tonn fired the five shots, later telling investigators that they did not believe they were required to activate them beforehand based on their understanding of the police department’s policy.

The cameras’ buffering feature did record the seconds before the shooting, but with no audio.

Vallejo police could not be reached for comment on the association’s statement.

Vallejo police told The Chronicle in an email Friday morning that they could not say whether Tonn was still employed by the police department. Open Vallejo reported that the police department had served Tonn with a notice of intent to terminate his employment for violating police department policy.

The police department said in a statement on Thursday that it intended to discipline officers found to have violated department policy. The statement also said that the department “has made significant changes and improvements” to its code of ethics and standards of conduct, use of force policies and procedures, and training plans, “especially as they relate to the de-escalation of force.”

Andy Picon is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: andy.picon@hearst.com Twitter: @andpicon

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