Attorney John Burris throws the book at Vallejo for the 55-shot murder of rapper Willie McCoy and other racist wrongs

Police fired 55 bullets in 3.5 seconds, according to a consultant hired by the city who analyzed the Vallejo Police Department body-worn camera footage of the Feb. 9, 2019, fatal shooting of Willie McCoy in a Taco Bell drive-thru. Nevertheless, the consultant concluded that police acted reasonably and within department policy.

by Lee Houskeeper

Oakland – Civil rights attorney John Burris announced on June 27 the filing of a federal civil rights and wrongful death lawsuit against six Vallejo police officers, Chief of Police Andrew Bidou and City Manager Greg Nyhoff.

“The Vallejo Police Department’s unconstitutional policing has become so dire and widespread that the city’s residents live in terror,” the suit asserts, calling for an independent monitor for the department. It was Burris who successfully requested a monitor for Oakland in a 2003 case.

Burris states, “The six officers shot at Willie 55 times to ensure that he did not survive his encounter, and the video clearly shows the officers’ callous attitude towards Willie McCoy, their premeditated decision to shoot a sleeping man if he moved.”

“I am not surprised to learn that one of the officers, Mark Thompson, previously used the n-word to degrade an African American man whose unarmed father had just been killed by a Vallejo police officer,” Burris exclaimed, adding: “This was a completely preventable tragedy. These officers failed to follow their training and made no effort to save Willie McCoy.” McCoy, a 20-year-old rap artist, was widely admired in Vallejo.

On June 25, 2019, Vallejo City Manager Greg Nyhoff told the City Council in a public meeting that he “just doesn’t feel that there is excessive use of force.” Nyhoff went on to justify police violence by saying: “There are people who resist. There are people with mental illness who you just have to use force, sometimes for their own well-being.”

Burris responds, “I’ve never heard of a city manager denying and thereby condoning the conduct of an objectively violent police force. This is unheard of.” He adds, “As a result, the city manager, who is ultimately responsible for the police department, has become liable for his part in condoning and ratifying the patently unconstitutional behavior.”

“The Vallejo Police Department’s unconstitutional policing has become so dire and widespread that the city’s residents live in terror.”

“This lawsuit recounts dozens of other documented incidents of egregious misconduct, which represent just a fraction of the total incidents of misconduct by Vallejo police officers.” Burris explains: “These abuses continue year after year because the city refuses to discipline, retrain and/or terminate known violent officers. As a result of this grievous failure to supervise their employees, we are asking the federal court to assign a monitor to ensure the department’s compliance with state and federal law.”

The Los Angeles Times reports: “Following the shooting, McCoy’s cousin criticized police action in Vallejo. “What the community is coming into contact with,” said David Harrison, “is some type of squad in the Vallejo Police Department targeting young Black men for execution.”

Read the full 26-page federal complaint at

Contact Lee Houskeeper of San Francisco Stories at