That’s me in the picture next to Quentin Tarantino

by Cyndi Mitchell

Cyndi Mitchell, sister of Vallejo police murder victim Mario Romero, marched beside Quentin Tarantino in New York City when #RiseUpOctober filled the streets, the crowd hearing directly from families of police murder victims who came from around the country.
Cyndi Mitchell, sister of Vallejo police murder victim Mario Romero, marched beside Quentin Tarantino in New York City when #RiseUpOctober filled the streets, the crowd hearing directly from families of police murder victims who came from around the country.

With everything that has been going on lately in my life, I am just realizing that my picture is on every major news outlet that I can think of. Yes, that is me that you see in the many pictures floating around the internet with world renowned movie director Quentin Tarantino, holding a banner of my loved one. But what you may not know is the story behind why I was marching that day in New York and why I continue to fight for justice for Mario Romero.

My brother, Mario Romero, was murdered by Vallejo police officers Sean Kenney and Dustin Joseph on Sept. 2, 2012, as he sat in front of his home. He wasn’t suspected of committing a crime, he wasn’t in the process of committing a crime and he wasn’t wanted for committing a crime – but this didn’t prevent him from being blinded by a bright light and attacked with a hail of bullets. Neither did this prevent one of the officers from jumping onto the hood of my brother’s car and repeatedly unloading his weapon.

My brother, Mario Romero, was murdered by Vallejo police officers Sean Kenney and Dustin Joseph on Sept. 2, 2012, as he sat in front of his home. He wasn’t suspected of committing a crime, he wasn’t in the process of committing a crime and he wasn’t wanted for committing a crime.

My brother Mario was shot 30 times. He was shot eight times through the palms of his hands. He was shot in his face and in his mouth, shattering his beautiful white teeth. He was shot through his wrists and underneath his arms. He was shot in his chest and along the side of his body once it fell over.

His last words were, “We have our hands up.” He held his hands up until the life was stolen from his body. All of this in front of his family who begged for them to stop, telling officers that they had the wrong person.

Cyndi waits her turn to speak as Carl Dix, lead organizer of #RiseUpOctober, takes the mic. Many families from the Bay Area, including Cephus Johnson, Oscar Grant’s Uncle Bobby, were there and spoke to the crowd. – Photo: William H. Jones Jr.
Cyndi waits her turn to speak as Carl Dix, lead organizer of #RiseUpOctober, takes the mic. Many families from the Bay Area, including Cephus Johnson, Oscar Grant’s Uncle Bobby, were there and spoke to the crowd. – Photo: William H. Jones Jr.

My brother Mario’s body was then cut from his seatbelt and his corpse was placed under arrest. His hands were zip-tied and bags placed on his hands. His body was stolen from the scene of the crime and a police-issued training weapon was planted inside of his car by the officer who killed him.

Other officers of the Vallejo Police Department held my family members hostage and at gunpoint, threatening them with death. The officers laughed and joked like this horror movie that they forced upon us was a game.

They changed the crime scene. Vallejo Police Corp. Stan Eng assisted in the planting of the police-issued gun and stealing the seatbelt that my brother was cut from. Each officer at the scene played a part in covering up this crime.

One, named Thompson, was tasked with distracting onlookers and family members while the gun was brought into the crime scene. One Vallejo police officer was tasked with repeatedly extending the crime scene to make it difficult for anyone to see the exchange. One officer was supposed to secure the crime scene but watched the exchange and contamination and failed to speak up; he is Andre Charles, formerly with the California Maritime Academy police.

My brother’s body was taken from the crime scene and hidden from my family. It was taken to a Kaiser hospital, where Vallejo police officers were given unlimited access to his body while we were denied the right to identify his body or see what they had done to him, because victims of police murder are denied that right. His body was hidden for 30 days.

Mario Romero in a family photo
Mario Romero in a family photo

Vallejo police created a lie, stating that although my brother wasn’t suspected of committing a crime, he was the only person that they saw on the street that night and they wanted to make contact with him. They lied, stating that he got out of his car and pointed a fake gun at them while screaming that he wasn’t going back to prison. He had never been to prison before.

His car was old and his seatbelt was broken. He tied it in a knot to prevent getting a seatbelt ticket. His car door was broken; he had to open it from the outside in order to exit.

They said that he used his door as a shield, shooting and running to the back of his car, then getting back inside of his car. But he never left his car. He was trapped inside of his seatbelt when he was pumped full of bullets. His body was cut from that seatbelt when the officer tried to remove him but couldn’t figure out why his body was stuck.

When my brother died, his biggest fear was getting a seatbelt ticket.

He was killed while parked in front of his home.

Our statements were refused by the Solano County District Attorney’s Office. They claimed that their office wasn’t equipped to take witness statements, then finished the conversation with the following statement, “You have your lawyers and we have ours,” although we were not represented by any lawyer and were seeking their help with this crime. The Vallejo Police Department refused to take witness statements for weeks.

Vallejo police changed their stories five times in three days. They finally settled on one story at the end, claiming that officers Sean Kenney and Dustin Joseph went to check out a burglary call that night. This call had been sitting in the queue for 19 hours. They forget to mention that Vallejo police didn’t respond to burglary calls in 2012.

Vallejo Police Officer Sean Kenney murdered three unarmed men with white cars in 2012 – his last victim murdered on the day that my brother was buried. He was not indicted; he was not charged with a crime. Instead, he was promoted to detective and put in charge of officer involved shootings. His partner in crime was recently nominated as officer of the year.

The #RiseUpOctober crowd listens intently to the families of police murder victims. As of Nov. 16, exactly 1,000 people have been killed by police in the U.S. so far in 2015, including 183 in California, where the largest number have died, according to a database called “The Counted: People killed by police in the US,” compiled by the London Guardian newspaper. – Photo: William H. Jones Jr.
The #RiseUpOctober crowd listens intently to the families of police murder victims. As of Nov. 16, exactly 1,000 people have been killed by police in the U.S. so far in 2015, including 183 in California, where the largest number have died, according to a database called “The Counted: People killed by police in the US,” compiled by the London Guardian newspaper. – Photo: William H. Jones Jr.

Both of these police officers have long histories of abuse, and millions of dollars have been paid out to settle their crimes on the Vallejo community. These officers changed their stories in depositions proving that Mario Romero was murdered, but the district attorney has failed to inquire or mention that Sean Kenney has a close family member employed by the Solano County District Attorney’s Office: O’Bryan Kenney.

Both of these police officers have long histories of abuse, and millions of dollars have been paid out to settle their crimes on the Vallejo community.

My brother Mario Romero was full of life and love; he never met a stranger. He was kind, peaceful and non-provoking. When he was murdered by Vallejo police, his character was demonized by them. They made a conscious decision to tell lies to the media, attempting to cover their crimes and diminish the worth of his life.

He should be here today, a lively 27-year-old young man enjoying life, having children and thriving; but he is not. His life was stolen and that is why I fight every day for his justice.

I commend Mr. Tarantino for standing with us during our continued fight for justice and not backing down under pressure from the predictable bullying and intimidation that is the core, culture and the way of life for not only American police but police around the world. Thank you for taking the time to read this!

‪#‎Justice4MarioRomero ‪#‎JusticeForMarioRomero ‪#‎StandWithQuentinTarantino‪ #‎RiseUpOctober #‎NoMoreStolenLives ‪#‎StolenLivesProject ‪#‎JailKillerCopsNow‪#‎NoJusticeNoPeace ‪#‎BlackLivesMatter ‪#‎BlueLivesMurder

Cyndi Mitchell can be reached via deeandtiny@poormagazine.org at POOR, where this story first appeared.