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Pressure mounting after fifth fatal Vallejo police fatal shooting since May

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POSTED September 21, 2012 10:15 p.m.

 

VALLEJO  (AP) — An outcry has intensified for independent investigations against the Vallejo police following the shooting death by officers earlier this month of a man outside his home — the city's fifth fatal officer-involved shooting since May.

Vallejo Mayor Osby Davis this week is calling for state Attorney General Kamala Harris to launch an inquiry into the shooting death of 23-year-old Mario Romero, who was shot by officers as he apparently reached for a gun while stepping out of a car near his home.

Police said the officers who fired 32 rounds at the car feared for their safety.

The weapon turned out to be a pellet gun.

Davis said Wednesday that he wants the separate inquiry to quell an eroding trust between the community and police. Residents have interrupted the last City Council meetings protesting the Romero shooting and the fatal police shooting of a 17-year-old in June.

"It must be understood that this request should not be taken as an indication of a lack of confidence in the established Solano County officer-involved shooting protocol, or any lack of confidence in the Vallejo Police Department, or the ability of the district attorney's office to conduct fair investigations," Davis said in a written statement.

"However, it is my belief that under the current circumstances, a secondary review will help to establish trust in the process," he continued.

It could take months, however, before state investigators even consider an inquiry. All local investigations need to be completed, followed by an official request from the Solano County district attorney's office.

Lynda Gledhill, a spokeswoman for the attorney general's office, told the San Francisco Chronicle on Thursday that their office normally gets involved only when there is a clear conflict of interest.

"We have not been formally asked to do anything," Gledhill said. Davis plans to make the request next week.

Meanwhile, local community leaders on Thursday demanded that the U.S. Justice Department investigate all the recent Vallejo police shootings.

"We have a department that is out of control," said George Holland, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's Oakland branch. He joined more than two dozen protesters outside a Solano County government building, some carrying signs that read, "Stop Vallejo Police From Murdering Our Friends and Family."

Attorney John Burris, who represents the families of Romero and Joseph Johnson, 21, another man fatally shot by Vallejo police, said he also plans to file a federal civil rights lawsuit against the department's use of deadly force.

He also questions the police version of the events that led to the shootings of both men.

"These lies need to be uncovered," Burris told reporters.

Vallejo police Sgt. Jeff Bassett said department officials welcome any additional investigations, as they believe it will show officers acted justifiably.

Overall, there have been seven officer-involved shootings in Vallejo — five of them fatal — since late May.

 

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