Bay City News Service
About 200 people jammed the Vallejo City Council Chambers tonight to hear relatives of victims and other residents vent their anger at the city police force and Mayor Osby Davis about investigations into five officer-involved fatal shootings since May.
Some speakers and audience members carried signs with messages such as, "Stop police brutality," and pleas for justice for shooting victims Mario Romero, 23, killed on Sept. 2, and Jared Huey, 17, shot to death on June 30.
A grim-looking Davis said at the start of the hearing that the council "would like to extend its sympathies" to Romero's family.
The mayor added that he personally could relate because, "I lost two children myself."
But encouraged by the agitated crowd, several of the 40 people who signed cards to speak directed their frustration at Davis, whom they accused of being slow to reach out to the families of victims and said he sided with Vallejo police officers who defended their reasons for the shootings.
"If we voted for you, we should feel safe," said Donna Parker, 49, of Vallejo. "You are hiring murderers. If you are not going to do your job, we will fire you."
Cindy Mitchell, Romero's mother, said she was disappointed that the mayor did not speak out publicly against the shootings and agreed to provide details about law enforcement probes into the deaths, which includes the Solano County District Attorney's Office and the Vallejo police Internal Affairs Division.
"My son was immediately killed while in his car parked outside his home," Mitchell said to Davis. "I am very hurt that you, as mayor, did not come out."
Davis told the audience that he and the six City Council members were not permitted to comment while the shooting deaths were under investigation. "I have made no public statements to anyone or anybody. It was not my intention to take any side."
Kris Kelley, Romero's sister, claimed that Davis talked to the news media before reading statements from witnesses to her brother's shooting.
She asked Davis if he knew whether the Vallejo police had placed her under surveillance and tapped her cellphone calls.
"I can't answer that because I don't know," the mayor said.
At the time of his death, Romero was serving probation for carrying a concealed weapon. Police officers said they shot him after he appeared to go for a pistol, which turned out to be a pellet gun, not considered illegal for paroled felon to carry and that could be used to deceive others on the street that he was armed.
Others killed in the officer shootings in Vallejo this year are Marshall Tobin, 44, Anton Barrett Sr., 42, and Peter Mestler, 53. Officers have shot and wounded two others this year.
Another speaker, Mike Huey, the father of Jared Huey, offered compliments to members of the Vallejo Police Department and Solano County Sheriff's Office, but claimed bitterly that the death of his son by officers was, "a straight execution of a 17-year-old not even able to buy a pack of cigarettes."
Some speakers said they did not trust local law enforcement and asked the council to have the FBI and California Attorney General's Office to launch separate investigations into the shootings.
Lori Reese Brown said that a grand jury should look into the slayings. "It's not 1960, it's 2012, so act like it," Brown said. "For too long this council has ignored incidents like this."
"Who's policing the police? These are vigilante police," said Vallejo resident Ashley Lattier. "They can't investigate themselves."