SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A man suspected of looting a pharmacy in the San Francisco Bay area was fatally shot by officers who thought he was carrying a firearm in his waistband, but it turned out to be a hammer, police said Wednesday.
Details of the shooting were revealed even as some California counties and cities began plans to end curfews after days of largely peaceful protests over the in-police custody death of George Floyd.
Sean Monterrosa, 22, of San Francisco is the first confirmed death at the hands of law enforcement in California since protests rocked the country last week. Vallejo Police Chief Shawny Williams said officers were responding to calls of looting at a Walgreens early Tuesday when the shooting occurred.
The shooting death prompted renewed calls against police brutality. Critics peppered a brief press conference by Williams, saying this was exactly the kind of police action they are protesting.
“The intent was to stop the looting and arrest any perpetrators if necessary. The officers reacted to a perceived threat,” he said. “I would say that it’s always at tragedy anytime an officer has to use force. My condolences to his family; it is a difficult thing to happen I understand that.”
Williams said police saw about a dozen people suspected of looting in the parking lot of the store. One of the cars rammed into a police vehicle and set the police on a wild chase, he said. At the same time, officers spotted Monterrosa near the building, with what appeared to be a weapon, police said.
“This individual appeared to be running toward the black sedan when he suddenly stopped, taking a kneeling position, and placing his hands above his waist, revealing what appeared to be the butt of a handgun,” Williams said.
An officer fired five times through a police car windshield, hitting Monterrosa once, Williams said. Monterrosa had a 15-inch hammer tucked into the pocket of his sweatshirt, the chief said.
John Burris, an attorney for the family, said he is appalled police would shoot at a person who was on his knees with his hands raised. “This young man was shot multiple times while he was on his knees and appeared to be trying to surrender,” Burris said.
The officer who shot Monterrosa is an 18-year veteran who has been placed on leave pending an investigation.
Elsewhere Wednesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom made a low-key visit to Los Angeles. He helped pack lunches for a senior meal program and toured a neighborhood.
In Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg and Police Chief Daniel Hahn took a knee in honor of Floyd and marched with a few hundred demonstrators through scorching heat to a church.
Hundreds of people lay down on hot pavement in West Hollywood with their hands behind their backs, simulating the position Floyd was in when a Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee into his neck.
In Anaheim, the city blocked off streets to traffic around City Hall to make a safe area for demonstrators.
Los Angeles County renewed its overnight curfew Wednesday, but it set a significantly shortened duration, 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. instead of 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. A county statement said it was assessing public safety needs daily. A few of the dozens of cities within the county maintained longer curfew hours.
San Francisco will lift its curfew Thursday morning, Mayor London Breed announced. She ordered the daily 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew after widespread looting Saturday night, but some supervisors said they were were disturbed by restrictions on free speech.
“Following Saturday night, it was important for the safety of our residents to ensure that we could prevent the violence and vandalism that had taken place, but we know that the overwhelming majority of people out protesting are doing so peacefully and we trust that will continue,” she said on social media.
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said the city will reluctantly keep its 8 p.m. curfew in place indefinitely, though police are being judicious about detaining protesters.
San Jose will also lift its curfew Thursday morning. Alameda County planned to end its curfew Friday at 5 a.m.
Authorities have credited curfews and the arrival of National Guard troops with significantly reducing vandalism and thefts. Officials have said organized gangs of thieves took advantage of the distraction of protests to hit dozens of businesses.
The Sacramento Police Department, meanwhile, is investigating an officer seen on cellphone video using a carotid restraint on an 18-year-old man arrested following a sidewalk chase early Monday, The Sacramento Bee reported.
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