You would think that with the recent events following the murder of George Floyd, police in the US would be more cautious, at least for a while, about using deadly force. You would be wrong, because in the US, the culture of the police shooting first for the slightest reason is so strong as to be almost an instinct. Look at what happened yesterday in Vallejo, CA.
Police in northern California fatally shot an unarmed 22-year-old who was on his knees with his hands up outside a Walgreens store while responding to a call of alleged looting, officials said.
An officer in the city of Vallejo was inside his car when he shot Sean Monterrosa on Monday night amid local and national protests against police brutality. Police said an officer mistakenly believed Monterrosa had a gun, but later determined he had a hammer in his pocket.
The exact circumstances that led to the killing are unclear, and police have not yet released footage. In a news conference on Wednesday, two days after the killing, police chief Shawny Williams said officers were responding to a call of possible looting at the pharmacy shortly after midnight when an officer in a cruiser drove up and saw a dozen people in the parking lot getting into a car.
A second officer in an unmarked car drove up and found Monterrosa, who was still on the scene, who then kneeled down and started to raise his hands. At this point, the police chief said, this officer “perceived a threat” and fired five shots through his window at Monterosso.
Adante Pointer, another civil rights lawyer who has long represented Vallejo families, said it was especially alarming that officers would kill a resident at this moment: “The eyes of the world are on policing and yet your officers still feel comfortable enough to shoot someone under what are the most questionable circumstances? If they could do this during the light of the George Floyd protests and world scrutiny, you can only imagine what they do in the dark of the night when no one is looking.”
You can gauge what the culture of this police department is.
The last person killed by Vallejo police was Willie McCoy, a 20-year-old who had been sleeping in his car in February 2019 when six officers fired 55 bullets in 3.5 seconds. One of the six officers who killed McCoy, a rising rapper in the Bay Area, had previously killed an unarmed man who was fleeing on his bike. Another Vallejo officer killed three men in a five-month period and was subsequently promoted.
The police have not yet released body cam video of the killing. Apparently this is their standard practice, to lie about what happened and put out the version that puts them in the best possible light, lies that are only discovered much later when the footage is finally released.
Then in Louisville, KY, which was already in turmoil following the killing of 26-year old Breonna Taylor by police who stormed into her house in the night and shot her while she was in her bed, the police have killed yet another black man David McAtee this week. The police were not wearing body cams, in violation of procedure.
Taylor was shot and killed by plainclothes LMPD officers serving a no-knock warrant in a narcotics investigation in March. Thinking they were witnessing a home invasion, her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker fired a shot and hit an officer in the leg after the door of her apartment was breached, prompting a barrage of gunfire that saw Taylor – an EMT who had been working in Louisville hospitals during the coronavirus pandemic – hit eight times. No drugs were found in the apartment and despite widespread protester demands that the officers involved be fired and arrested, none have been fired yet.
And if you want more evidence of the casual use of force by police, watch this video of a 75-year old man roughly pushed to the ground by Buffalo, NY police and the police walking past even as he started bleeding from the head. The police first said that the man ‘tripped and fell’, a blatant lie. But that is what they do. Two officers have been suspended following the release of the video.
(The Onion has a report on the Buffalo police’s problems with “out-of-control elderly men” and the “terrifying influx of senior citizens recklessly hobbling through the streets and shamelessly blocking crosswalks”. Buffalo Police captain Jeff Rinaldo said in a statement:
“Do not be fooled. While they may appear peaceful, these 75-, 80-, and 90-year-old men are armed with canes that could inflict serious harm, as well as walkers that could be used to bludgeon. Sadly, until we are provided with additional tear gas, rubber bullets, and armored tanks, we cannot ensure that our officers are safe.” At press time, Rinaldo released several photos showing “highly explosive” oxygen tanks confiscated from elderly men that morning.)
Although in the US, policing is a local matter, this is clearly a nationwide problem requiring a nationwide response.