A twenty-two year old Latino man, Sean Monterossa, was empty handed and on his knees when he was fatally shot by a Vallejo, California police officer in June of 2020. The officer, in an unmarked police car, was reportedly responding to a call regarding potential suspects in an earlier looting at Walgreens that evening. He fired five rounds at Monterrosa, claiming that Monterrosa was kneeling “in preparation to shoot.”
The officer who shot Monterossa was put on leave in May 2021, almost a full year after the incident, and as of October, has officially been terminated from the department. The Vallejo Police Department cannot publicly identify the offending officer due to the verdict of a related lawsuit brought about by the Vallejo Police Officers’ Association.
Despite a department-funded investigation revealing several tactical violations in Monterossa’s case, including the officer’s failure to turn on his body camera until the aftermath of the shooting, no arrests have been made.
Monterrosa’s case has sparked outrage throughout the Bay Area and prompted reflection from Latine students at USF on the state of police brutality. The Instagram account @justice4sean_ has been one popular resource for advocates of Monterrosa with 20,000 people following the account for updates on Monterrosa’s case.
These activists created a website with compiled resources related to the case, including a link to the Stand With Sean petition that calls on the Vallejo Police Department to release the badge bending reports, cases in which Vallejo officers allegedly bent their badges after shooting victims. It also calls to the public and for Vallejo City Council members to vote in favor of the Police Oversight Model, a proposed system in which designated individuals who are unaffiliated with the police routinely review complaints or concerns against the department or officers.
What happened to Monterrosa is not an isolated incident in this police department. According to NBC, the Vallejo Police Department has the highest rate of residents shot per capita in Northern California. According to research conducted by Campaign Zero, the department also uses more force than any other department in California.
Monterossa’s case speaks to more pervasive issues of police bias against Latine people in the Bay Area. An analysis conducted by CalMatters found that between 2016 and 2018, Californian Latine people made up 46% of fatal police shootings despite only making up 39% of the population.
Michael Alvarez, a Latine first-year marketing major, weighed in on the issue. “Because San Francisco and USF are both so diverse, there have been times where I have found myself falling into a dangerous mentality of ‘this [police bias] doesn’t happen here, it happens in other places, to other people,’” he said.
“Even in a city where I see my culture all over the place, where it’s prominent and celebrated, the truth is that police violence will always be a very real, looming threat for people who look like me.”
Upon hearing the news that the officer who killed Monterrosa was fired, Alvarez said, “It’s a victory, I won’t sell it short, but it almost feels like too little too late. They have been sitting on proof of this happening for two years and still no one has been charged? Really?”
Second-year psychology major Serena Martins said that she was shocked by the lack of mainstream media coverage on Monterrosa’s case. “What happened to Sean felt like it was rarely discussed unless in a greater conversation about police brutality,” she said, “What happened to him was never the center of attention. There’s a pattern when it comes to Latino victims of police violence, it’s never talked about, it’s almost expected.”
This story has been updated on Oct. 24th to correct discrepancies.
Jordan DelFiugo is a second-year psychology major and a general assignment reporter for the Foghorn. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.