California Police Officer Kills Man on His Knees, Mistaking Hammer for Gun

Vallejo, California police fatally shot 22-year-old Sean Monterrosa early Tuesday morning after mistaking a hammer in his sweatshirt for a gun. A Vallejo police officer fired at him five times through his police cruiser's windshield. One of the shots killed Monterrosa outside a Walgreens store, police said Wednesday. The shooting happened after protests over the death of George Floyd.

Vallejo Police Chief Shawny Williams said it looked like Monterrosa was trying to flee the scene before he kneeled and put his hands on waist. "This individual appeared to be running toward the black sedan but suddenly stopped taking a kneeling position and placing his hands above his waist revealing what appeared to be the butt of handgun investigations later revealed that the weapon was a long 15-inch hammer tucked into the pocket of his sweatshirt," Williams explained, reports KGO. Williams did not release the officer's name but said he is an 18-year veteran of the force. Police received multiple calls of looting, including one at the Walgreens.

Civil rights attorney John Burris, who is representing Monterrosa's family, told BuzzFeed News there is "no evidence" Monterrosa was taking part in the looting. Burris said he was not aware if Monterrosa has a criminal record. Even if Monterrosa was looting, Burris said that crime "is not something that deserves a death warrant," adding, "You don’t get to shoot and kill someone because they’re looting, particularly if you didn’t see them looting." Burris said the officer's decision to shoot Monterrosa was an "unlawful, wrongful, excessive use of force," especially since the victim was already on his knees.

Monterrosa lived in San Francisco and worked as a cement mason. He was the brother of an older and younger sister. His parents are both immigrants from Argentina, and a family friend has launched a GoFundMe account to raise $100,000 for funeral costs and legal fees.

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"His family is mourning his loss, and we are all devastated. We want to help them out in any way we can. Due to the current circumstances, we are reaching out to anyone who would like to contribute to Sean's funeral cost and other expenses to help support his family during this difficult time," the GoFundMe page reads. "Please feel free to share this and keep his family in your prayers. Thank you, everyone and God bless you. #JusticeForSean."

There have been at least 18 fatal encounters with police in Vallejo since 2011, although no police officer has faced discipline for deadly force since then, notes BuzzFeed. Vallejo has also paid $7 million in civil rights settlements from lawsuits against the police since 2011. Last year, police shot Willie McCoy, a 20-year-old black man they found sleeping in his car with a gun in his lap outside a Taco Bell. The officers claimed McCoy reached for the gun when he awoke and an outside consultant said the officers' actions were "in line with contemporary training and police practices."