‘Follow your knowledge’ at rally for Sean Monterrosa – Times-Herald
SAN FRANCISCO – Determined activists chased windblown signs of citizens killed by police during a bustling rally for Vallejo police victim Sean Moterrosa at a blustery San Francisco city hall on Sunday.
The signs were picked up by onlookers who, spurred on by a series of speeches and discussions about police brutality, did not want to lose sight of what it is like to be taken to another place and time.
The rally concluded ‘Tucan Weekend’ – a two-day event for Monterrosa, who was 22 when he was shot and killed by Vallejo cop Jarrett Tonn outside a Walgreens store in Vallejo on June 2, 2020.
Tonn, who believed Sean Monterrosa was looking for a weapon as the looting took place during protests against police fire against black citizens, fired five AK-15 rifles from the back seat, killing Monterrosa with a bullet in the neck and head. It was determined that Sean did, in fact, have a claw hammer in the pocket of his sweatshirt.
Placards showing photos of people killed by police across the country line the stage at a rally in San Francisco demanding justice for Sean Monterrosa. (Thomas Gase – Times-Herald) Later in 2020, the town of Vallejo was served with a federal civil rights lawsuit on behalf of the Monterrosa family.
“He was kneeling with his hands up in a parking lot and when Vallejo cop Jarrett Tonn fired five shots from the back seat of an unmarked police vehicle and killed him,” said Sean’s older sister, Michelle Monterrosa, on a stage outside City Hall. “It’s the equivalent of a drive-by shootout. There was no way Officer Jarrett Tonn could sense a threat coming from the backseat of a moving police vehicle.
Michelle then spoke more about her younger brother and what he looked like before the end of his life.
“It’s important that you know what Sean looked like as a person,” Michelle continued, struggling at one point through tears. “He was a loving son, an average brother, and dedicated to making a difference in this world. He was a reader, an athlete and a young man who cared deeply for the Latin community and all other communities in uniting us. Sean’s very last text to us was to sign a petition demanding justice for George Floyd. “
Earlier this week, the Vallejo Police Department issued a statement, calling the shooting a “tragic event and death.”
“The preservation of life is a sacred responsibility, and our mission as peace officers is to protect, serve and save lives,” the statement read. “We express our sincere condolences to Sean’s family, friends and community on this difficult anniversary with the deepest human sympathy.
Most of the spectators and the many speakers on Saturday – focused on the goal of removing Tonn and VPD Chief Shawny Williams from their posts – weren’t buying the answer. Michelle explained that her family had not been informed of Sean’s death by the VPD, but had been informed by the coroner’s office.
On the morning of the June 2 shooting, at 4:08 am, police released a statement that there had been a “shooting involving an officer,” but declined to say whether it was fatal and who was involved. Monterrosa had been declared dead two and a half hours before this press conference.
At 3 p.m. on June 3, Williams announced that the shooting involved an officer killing someone. When asked to explain further, Williams said that at the time of the initial statement, Monterrosa had not been pronounced dead. From the Bay Area News Group reports of June 10, the public learned that the police chief’s statement of June 3 was not accurate.
Controversy escalated with news that evidence of the shooting – including the vehicle’s windshield – had been destroyed. Further unrest arose when news broke in late July of VPD officers folding the tips of their badges whenever they had killed someone in the line of duty.
“From the start we were treated with disrespect from the Vallejo Police Department. What we have experienced is standard behavior in the corrupt culture of the Vallejo Police Department, ”Michelle said.
The many speakers on Sunday included family members of Oscar Grant, Mario Woods, Stephon Clark, Steven Taylor, Alvin Cole, Trevor Seever, Angelo Quinto and many more shot by police. Onlookers had tears in their eyes as the families asked them to call out their names. Mistress of Ceremonies and Justice Rally CEO Carmen Perez, involved in police corruption investigations for 25 years, said hearing the many speeches from families was “difficult”.
“I walk (while she hears the speeches) because I’m not trying to crack,” Perez said. “These families need us. They need us to encourage them, to support them, to surround them with our arms. Fight for the legislation. Do you have access to legislators? Talk to them. Do you have access to the judges? Talk to them. Why is it if you complain about a nail salon or barber multiple times that these people are decertified? Why is it not the same with the police?
Elaine Brown, longtime prison activist and ex-president of the Black Panthers, has called for the death penalty for Tonn.
“We have to make sure Jarrett Tonn is put to death,” Brown told the crowd. “I mean, it’s the murder sentence, isn’t it?” I don’t care how it’s done. I know, I know, people are saying right now, ‘Oh Lord, Elaine, are you saying put Jarrett Tonn to death?’ Yes, you are right, you are absolutely right.
“I am 78 years old. I have been fighting this fight for fifty years. The fight continues, ”Brown continued. “We cannot stop, we cannot rest until there is no more brutality and murder with blacks, browns and the poor and until there is revolutionary change But now we can go get rid of this cop, get rid of the police chief, get rid of the prosecutor (Krishna Abrams) and continue to use our powers. We have power and power over the people.
Gween Woods, the mother of Mario Woods, killed by San Francisco police in 2015, called the police department a “terrorist group.”
Lee Merritt, the family attorney, sang with the audience urging people to say, “We don’t give consent” to the police. Many family members of those shot by the police took up the song later in their own speeches.
Pastor Curtis Smith spoke and provided some laughs as well as advice on Sean’s nickname, Tucan, based on a Froot Loops cereal character, Toucan Sam.
“He (the character) had this strange ability to detect with his long nose. He could feel the Froot loops that were miles and miles away, ”Smith said. “That would essentially lead him to a bowl of cereal that was hidden and unobtainable. But he would say this, ‘Follow your nose.’ I came here today to honor the memory of Sean Monterrosa and “Tucan Weekend”. And in that symbolism is that with the weird ability to discover and smell the Froot Loops, well, I came here because I smell Trix. We came here to find out the tips that have been hidden in the police for years and years and years. Toucan said to follow your nose. I’m not talking about your physical nose, but rather your (head). Follow your knowledge and follow the facts. We know the truth, we have come here to find out the truth.
Towards the end of the ceremony, the Monterrosa sisters said Sean was “probably looking down on the city” and was happy with what he saw.
“We’ve made a big sacrifice to get to this,” younger sister Ashley said earlier today. “For almost a year, our family fought constantly to keep Sean’s name in the press despite our exhaustion and pain. We want to see significant change.
“You better believe that we are striving to be the last family affected by the Vallejo Police Department,” added Michelle Monterrosa.