Attorney General Bonta Issues Report on Shooting Death of Sean Monterrosa

Tuesday, December 19, 2023
Contact: (916) 210-6000,

OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today announced the conclusion of the California Department of Justice’s (DOJ) review of the shooting death of Sean Monterrosa, finding that there is insufficient evidence to support criminal charges against the involved officer. Sean Monterrosa was shot and killed by an Officer with the Vallejo Police Department (VPD) on June 2, 2020. DOJ’s review of the incident focused solely on potential criminal liability and does not reflect any determination as to potential administrative or civil liability. 

“Sean Monterrosa’s life mattered and there is nothing that can make up for his death. His loss is and will continue to be felt by his family and the Bay Area community,” said Attorney General Bonta. “It’s critical that these difficult incidents undergo a transparent, fair, and thorough review. My office remains committed to doing everything in our power to prevent these kinds of incidents from occurring and putting forward policy solutions to help ensure law enforcement are responsive to the needs of their communities. To that end, we recently negotiated a civil stipulated judgment with the Vallejo Police Department to institute crucially necessary reforms to their policies and practices. Public safety and accountability requires trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve. My office is working to build that trust through transparency and working to improve police practices.”

In the criminal review process, DOJ conducted an extensive review of all available evidence including but not limited to dispatch records, 911 recordings, surveillance video, witness and officer interviews, and the autopsy report. These and other records were supplemented by two expert opinions and additional investigation by DOJ’s special agents. In order to charge the officer with homicide, DOJ must believe that the evidence proves guilt of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt and that the admissible evidence is sufficient to warrant conviction after hearing all the evidence and considering any defenses that could be raised in the case. Based on the relevant legal standard, DOJ determined there is insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the officer did not act in self-defense or in defense of his partner officers. 

In a related matter, DOJ conducted a criminal investigation regarding the possible destruction of evidence by VPD. After the shooting took place, an officer fired through the windshield of the vehicle the officer was in, VPD subsequently had a new windshield installed in the vehicle, and the damaged windshield was discarded. In order to charge destruction of evidence, DOJ would have to prove that the officers acted with a criminal intent. DOJ concluded that the officers involved in the decision to replace the windshield were unconnected to the shooting, and that the officers did not act with a criminal intent to suppress or destroy evidence when they had the windshield replaced and returned the vehicle to service.

While no criminal charges will be filed in the case, both DOJ and expert reports suggested specific improvements to the tactics used by the officers on the night of the shooting. Independent of this investigation, but based on some of the same concerns that came to light in the Monterrosa case, DOJ has been working to improve the practices of VPD. As part of these efforts, on June 5, 2020, DOJ, the city of Vallejo, and VPD entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for VPD to institute a comprehensive modernized policing plan. On June 5, 2023, the MOU expired and VPD had achieved substantial compliance with less than the agreed-upon recommendations. During the review of VPD’s systems and practices under the MOU, DOJ concluded that VPD failed to uniformly and adequately enforce the law, based in part, because of defective or inadequate policies, practices, and procedures. DOJ is currently seeking court approval of the stipulated judgment with court oversight requiring VPD and the city of Vallejo to implement the remaining reforms, and to implement additional reforms addressing civilian complaints, bias-free policing, stops, searches, seizures and arrest, and ongoing oversight of these reforms.  

In the civil stipulated judgment, the parties have agreed on a comprehensive five-year plan to address the numerous areas that need improvement and modernization to bring VPD into alignment with contemporary best practices and ensure constitutional policing. VPD will implement the remaining recommendations that have not been completed from the 45 Recommendations contained in the May 2020 report titled “Vallejo Police Department: Independent Assessment of Operations, Internal Review Systems and Agency Culture” (“2020 Recommendations”). In addition, VPD will implement recommendations that came directly out of DOJ’s comprehensive civil rights investigation and some reforms required under the judgment are aimed at preventing use-of-force incidents like the one that lead to the death of Sean Monterrosa, these include: 

  • A policy barring officers from shooting out of a moving vehicle. Officers may not discharge a firearm from a moving vehicle unless faced with an immediate threat to death or serious bodily injury.
  • Engage in de-escalation. Officers will have an affirmative duty to attempt to slow down, reduce the intensity of, stabilize any situation through de-escalation tactics, when feasible.
  • Review prior use of force to institute improvements. VPD will review critical incidents for policy, procedures, and trainings improvements. A new critical incident board policy and other terms of the judgement will significantly increase avenues for community input as well as responsiveness of VPD to that community input, as well as oversight.
  •  Conduct an ongoing audit of incidents where an officer points a firearm at a member of the public or brandishes a firearm in the presence of a member of the public to ensure that its officers are not drawing a firearm solely based on the mere existence of a potential risk (e.g., public contact, pedestrian/traffic stop).
  • Hold officers and supervisors accountable for not identifying, adequately investigating, or addressing force that is unreasonable or otherwise contrary to VPD policy; and refer uses of force that may violate law or VPD’s use of force policy to Professional Standards for further investigation or review.
  • Commit to providing bias-free services and enforcing laws in a way that is professional, nondiscriminatory, fair, and equitable.
  • Ensure stops, searches, and seizures comply with the law, as part of an effective overall crime prevention strategy that does not contribute to counterproductive tension with the community.
  • Enhance and revise training with respect to investigatory stops, reiterating that race, color, ethnicity, national origin, religion, gender, gender identity, disability, or sexual orientation are not to be used as a factor in establishing reasonable suspicion or probable cause, except as part of actual and credible descriptions of a specific suspect.
  • Enhance, promote, and strengthen partnerships within the community, to continue engaging constructively with the community to ensure collaborative problem-solving and bias-free policing, and to increase transparency and community confidence in VPD. 
  • Utilize its Chief’s Advisory Board (CAB) and the Police Oversight and Accountability Commission (POAC), to continue to develop and amend significant policies that impact the community including to its use of force policies, community-policing strategy and policies, bias-free policing policies, and civilian complaint policies. 

A copy of the report into the shooting death of Sean Monterrosa is available here. A copy of the report is available in Spanish here. A copy of the stipulated judgment between DOJ, the city of Vallejo, and VPD is available here.

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