OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today announced that the California Department of Justice will conduct an independent review of the officer-involved shooting death of Sean Monterrosa to determine whether criminal charges are warranted. Today’s announcement comes after the Solano County District Attorney unilaterally abdicated her responsibility as the elected district attorney and refused to conduct a review of the Vallejo Police Department’s investigation of the incident. At a moment when building trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve is more important than ever, the District Attorney’s failure to act only serves to create more obfuscation and distrust in our justice system. Monterrosa was fatally shot by a Vallejo Police Department officer on June 2, 2020.
“Without accountability, there is no justice,” said Attorney General Bonta. “It’s past time Sean Monterrosa’s family, the community, and the people of Vallejo get some answers. They deserve to know where the case stands. Instead, they’ve been met with silence. It’s time for that to change; it’s time for action. Seeing the failure of the District Attorney to fulfill this important responsibility, my office will review the case to ensure a fair, thorough, and transparent process is completed. This is the right thing to do and I will go where the facts lead. Rebuilding trust in our institutions starts with the actions of each and every one of us. If there has been wrongdoing, we will bring it to light.”
On March 10, 2021, the investigation of the officer-involved shooting of Monterrosa was completed by local authorities and presented to the Solano County District Attorney’s Office for review. Subsequently, the District Attorney, without invitation or notice, attempted to deliver the investigative file to the California Department of Justice. In effect, the District Attorney demanded that the Department assume the responsibilities she was elected to carry out, despite the fact that no known circumstances prevented her from discharging her duties. Although the Solano County District Attorney posted a video “recusing” the county from evaluating the incident on July 2, 2020, the District Attorney offered no evidence for finding that a conflict had actually occurred as outlined under the California Penal Code. Further, in declaring a recusal, the District Attorney’s Office continued to acknowledge that it was in fact fully capable of performing a fair and objective evaluation. Ultimately, there has been no indication by the District Attorney’s Office — the law enforcement agency best-positioned to handle this matter — that any review of the Vallejo Police Department’s investigation will or has occurred in the Monterrosa case. As a result, the Attorney General today informed the District Attorney that the California Department of Justice will review the case.
Historically, officer-involved shootings in California have been primarily handled by the state's 58 district attorneys who are largely resourced by and responsible to the jurisdictions where the incidents occurred, as should have been the case with the investigation into the shooting of Sean Monterrosa in Solano County. However, as a result of Assembly Bill 1506, which goes into effect on July 1, 2021, the California Department of Justice will soon have an important new tool to directly help build and maintain trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve by taking over investigations of officer-involved shootings of unarmed civilians across California. Based on historical averages, the Department estimates that, once the law is in effect, it will be called upon to handle 40 such investigations across the state each year. The Office of the Attorney General is currently taking steps to help ensure the Department is able to successfully launch this new effort to help give Californians confidence that there is a fair and impartial process in place to capably and timely investigate these serious, deadly incidents.
The actions announced today are separate from the California Department of Justice’s ongoing civil review of the Vallejo Police Department’s policies and practices.