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Oakland Attorney Requests Independent Investigation Into Vallejo Officer-Involved Shootings

Announcement was made at a press conference at the Solano County DA's office Thursday.

By Bay City News Service

Weeks after the latest fatal officer-involved shooting in a series of police shootings in Vallejo this year, Oakland-based civil rights Attorney John Burris is requesting an independent investigation into the Vallejo Police Department.

Speaking at a news conference at the Solano County District Attorney's Office Thursday afternoon, Burris said his office is requesting the investigation on behalf of Joseph Johnson, 21, and other victims of officer-involved shootings in Vallejo this year.

“There have been seven (officer-involved) shootings over the past year and a half-that is a huge number for a city this size,” Burris said.

The attorney said he supports Vallejo Mayor Osby Davis's bid to seek city council approval of a request for an investigation into Vallejo Police Department practices by the state Attorney General's Office. The state probe would be separate from the Solano County District Attorney's Office's investigation.

“The mayor's efforts are good, but it's not enough,” he said.

Burris said he plans to request an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice into Vallejo police's use of deadly force.

He said he also plans to file a federal civil rights lawsuit against the Police Department's use of deadly force, especially in relation to black male suspects. Burris said the Police Department's recent record of officer-involved shootings far surpasses that of larger cities.

Since the beginning of 2012, Vallejo police have shot and killed three men and a teenager - Marshall Tobin, 44, Anton Barrett Sr., 42, Peter Mestler, 53, Jared Huey, 17, and 23-year-old Mario Romero. Two others, including Johnson, were badly wounded in officer-involved shootings.

In the latest shooting, on September 2, Vallejo police officers shot and killed Romero after he allegedly reached for what turned out to be a pellet gun, according to police.

Police said Romero was on felony probation for carrying a concealed weapon when he was killed. The shooting occurred around 4:30 a.m. after two officers on patrol spotted the 23-year-old and his passenger, Johnson, sitting in a parked car.

According to police, Romero did not comply with officer commands to show his hands and instead reached toward his car's center console.

Police said the officers feared for their safety.

But Burris said police's version of the events that led to the shooting of Romero and Johnson is questionable.

“No African-American male being pursued by police officers in this country would reach in their waistband or in their back pocket,” he said.“These lies need to be uncovered.”

Vallejo Police Sergeant. Jeff Bassett, however, called Burris's request for a federal investigation “ludicrous” and said the attorney “does not have all the facts” about the September 2 shooting.

Nonetheless, the sergeant said the department would welcome an additional investigation into their use of deadly force and believes investigators' findings will align with the department's own assessment of this year's officer-involved shootings.

Bassett also said Burris's allegations of racial discrimination are unfounded. Of the seven people who were killed or wounded in officer-involved shootings this year, for example, three where white, he
said.

The sergeant said that the Police Department has responded to more than 300 reports of gunfire since the beginning of the year and has taken 150 guns off of the street.

"It stands to reason that officers are going to encounter guns on the street,” he said. “We're concerned about why someone might choose to go to his waistband when officers are obviously approaching him.”

But several community members at the news conference voiced their distrust in the police department and said they would continue to push for answers about the officer-involved shootings until the truth comes out.

A few-dozen community members today flanked Burris, many holding signs with messages such as “Justice for Mario” and “Stop Vallejo Police From Murdering Our Friends and Family.”

Two people held a banner with a photo of Romero and his 3-year-old daughter. Romero's mother, Cindy Mitchell, and his siblings stood next to Burris this afternoon.

"I just hope that justice is done for Mario so this type of act doesn't happen to any other young men,” Mitchell said. “I don't want my son's death to go in vain.”

           

Edward Pritchard September 22, 2012 at 04:39 AM
“No African-American male being pursued by police officers in this country would reach in their waistband or in their back pocket,” Guess this ole boy ain't watched "Cops" on TV!
"The Black Panther of Poetry" September 22, 2012 at 05:19 AM
And I guess you are a bias racist white man!!! Here is a poem for you and your like minded cohorts. "You agreeing with the cops is like a spider agreeing with another spider about how good flys taste"!!! LOW HANGING FRUIT City streets and minority families are usually the growing spots Where they are abundantly grown and harvested so easily when otherwise the pickings are not The most popular flavors are black and brown for they stimulate a healthy system with hardly a  protest or frown Nurtured and grown with the best of fertilizers watered by haters, bigots, and profilers This fruit is picked by the local cops to feed the mouths of those in power in their weakest times and most vulnerable hours Oh this low hanging fruit will never flicker for it yields a high volume with little labor and danger for the picker
Edward Pritchard September 22, 2012 at 06:44 AM
He koko Hawai'i ko'u!!! Back when I was born in Kansas in the 50's the county made damn sure they noted on my birth certificate that I wasn't all white. My ohana is the colors of the rainbow. I've been arrested and tossed in jail. When I was taken down it was 6 on one and one of them kept a 12 gauge stuck in my back and another a boot on the back of my neck while they patted me down and cuffed me. What did I take away from that? I owned my mistakes I understood that I and I alone was the cause of all of this pain & discomfort. The biggest racist are the ones who do wrong unto others and when the law steps on them they cry the law is being mean to me because I'm black. Whats really a messed up narrative is black gangbanger robs & beats a black woman then gets arrested by a black cop resists arrest gets a beat down. When he gets to the jail he is gonna be ranting to everyone "THEY ONLY DOING THIS TO ME BECAUSE I' BLACK" I'll give it there is a very small percentage of bad cops. But you know what? If as a race you lower your actual crime rate the deeds of evil cops would be so obvious it would make it easy to give them their just deserts. You go all amok and slam me with the race card for pointing out the folly in the authors statement? Black White Brown Yellow Red no race owns the patent on stupidity. To make a statement that any particular race has no individuals stupid enough to draw down on the cops is in itself racist and just plain stupid!
Blanca Botwin September 22, 2012 at 01:59 PM
I thought the comment was ignorant as well. While I agree that it seems the number of officer involved shootings is very high in a short matter of time,I also realize their best cop was murdered by a bank robber,so they are reminded that death is a very real risk they face every day. As far as the latest victim,what about the Ecstasy pills and baggies he had in his car when he was killed? What about the air gun? Why does the family insist he was doing nothing wrong,and the police are lying and planting evidence? Who is he....OJ? Where was he coming from that late at night??? If you want to read a lot of ignorance, go to the FB memorial page for him. The ignorance is endless.

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