VALLEJO (AP) — Tensions are high as police in this Northern California city are investigating its fifth fatal officer-involved shooting this year.
The latest shooting happened early Sunday after officers fired more than 30 rounds and shot and killed a parolee who apparently turned towards them with a weapon that turned out to be a pellet gun.
Two officers were conducting a routine patrol in north Vallejo when they spotted two men sitting inside a white Thunderbird shortly after 4 a.m. Sunday, police Sgt. Jeff Bassett said. The officers tried to make contact with the men due to a string of recent gang-related shootings in the area and used their patrol car spotlight to illuminate the Thunderbird.
Officers began shooting at the driver after he apparently got out and grabbed what they thought was a gun from his waistband and turned toward them, Bassett said.
"The proper response would be to respond to that lethally," Bassett told reporters on Sunday.
When asked if there was any kind of exchange or dialogue between the officers and driver, Bassett said no. Family members and community leaders have identified the driver as Mario Romero, 23, of Vallejo.
Police said after Romero was shot, officers fired more rounds at him when he apparently refused their orders to show his hands. One officer even jumped on the hood of Romero's car "to get a better view of what was happening on the interior of the car during the second volley," Bassett said.
Romero later died at a local hospital after an excess of 30 rounds were fired, Bassett said. Officers later found the pellet gun and 50 ecstasy pills inside the car, he added.
Romero was on parole for a weapons violation, police said.
Both officers involved in the fatal shooting have been placed on administrative leave as the shooting is investigated by the Solano County District Attorney's Office and the Vallejo Police.
Romero's passenger, Joseph Johnson, 21, underwent surgery after being shot five times and is in intensive care at a local hospital, KGO-TV reported on Monday.
A candlelight vigil was held Sunday for Romero, the father of a 3-year-old daughter, as his family denounced his fatal shooting, just steps outside his home.
"(The officers) reloaded in front me, stood on the roof of the car and shot him and shot and shot," Romero's sister, Cynquita Martin told KTVU-TV on Sunday. "They shot at least six to eight times."
The incident is Vallejo's seventh officer involved shooting — five of them fatal — since May.
Organizers have scheduled rally and march Tuesday afternoon outside the Vallejo police's headquarters. The Rev. Floyd Harris, a co-organizer of the rally, told the Associated Press on Monday that Romero's family and the community want more information.
"They are pretty traumatized about it and they want some answers," Harris said. "They have a lot of questions that they want answered."