A 22-year-old man who surrendered to police was shot dead by an officer in the San Francisco area on Tuesday, amid reports of looting at the store where the incident occurred.
Sean Monterrosa, of Vallejo, died in hospital after police shot him five times from inside their vehicle, officials say.
“There was no reason for them to kill my brother like that,” his sister, Ashley Monterrosa, told ABC 7 News, amid growing outcry over the death. “They executed him.”
The incident happened outside a Walgreens after midnight on Tuesday in Vallejo, Calif. Officials say the officers were investigating a report of looting inside the store. They showed up to see about a dozen people getting in a vehicle and leaving, and Monterrosa still outside the pharmacy.
Monterossa appeared to run toward the vehicle then suddenly stopped, dropped to his knees and raised his hands above his waist, revealing a hammer sticking out of his pants, police said.
An officer mistook the hammer for the butt of a gun and shot him because he “perceived a threat,” said Vallejo Police Chief Shawny Williams. The unidentified officer has 18 years of experience on the force and has been put on leave pending an investigation.
“The intent was to stop the looting and to arrest any perpetrators if necessary,” Williams said at a news conference on Wednesday.
“It’s always a tragedy anytime an officer has to use force,” he added. “My condolences to his family. It is a difficult thing to happen, I understand that.”
One of the fleeing vehicles rammed a police car and triggered a wild chase, Williams said.
The shooting of Monterrosa has provoked fierce criticism of police in the San Francisco Bay Area, and is the first confirmed police killing related to a looting incident since the George Floyd protests broke out, The Associated Press reports.
Another of the victim’s sisters, Michelle Monterrosa, has said that her brother was “murdered” by police.
“My brother was kneeling and surrendering, yet you shot my brother from your vehicle through your windshield,” she said of the officer, according to the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper. “How much more cowardly can you be?”