Demanding justice for Sean Monterrosa is a force uniting the Black and Brown communities across California

San Francisco native and passionate BLM supporter Sean Monterrosa was murdered by Vallejo Police June 2, 2020, during a night of protest against police brutality. Sean’s sisters, Michelle and Ashley Monterrosa, were arrested in November for holding a small action in front of California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s home. Although charges were dropped, Newsom has yet to act on his statement of being open to meeting with the Monterrosa family to discuss pursuing justice for Sean’s death.

An open letter to Gov. Newsom

by Mona Loré

Dear Gov. Newsom,

I am writing in hopes of compelling you to delay no further and take action in your community. Sean Monterrosa was shot and killed by Vallejo Police Officer Jarrett Tonn on June 2, 2020, just one week after George Floyd’s murder. Since then, his sisters Michelle and Ashley Monterrosa have been met with opposition, corruption and lack of transparency on the part of Vallejo police in their handling of the case. 

Michelle and Ashley have taken every legal avenue at their disposal to seek justice for their brother Sean. We were shocked after confirming with Vallejo Police Chief Shawny Williams that key evidence in Sean’s case had been destroyed. Michelle and Ashley responded by seeking help from their local officials. They contacted your office many times to demand an intervention – YOUR INTERVENTION – when this murder investigation began to show signs of corruption and criminality. 

Public officials and Black and Brown communities across the Bay Area have been expecting your action since July 2020. 

You have had the privilege of ignoring them for months, of not returning their phone calls to your office and of refusing to set a date to meet with the Monterrosa family. I have had the privilege of marching with them and supporting their efforts to bring justice to the killing of their brother – even if that meant standing with them outside the gates to your mansion and holding a nonviolent protest back in October. 

Honduran-born Mona Loré is a dedicated advocate for justice for Sean Monterrosa and all struggles for civil rights in the Bay Area, participating in the Oct. 2, 2020, protest outside of Gov. Newsom’s Sacramento home when the Monterrosa sisters were unjustly arrested. She is pictured here performing a piece in San Francisco. 

While it might have been easy for you to pick up the phone and call the police on 17 protesters, it was not easy for us to watch the sisters of Sean Monterrosa being arrested and sneered at by officers and for us to spend a night in jail with them simply for publicly listing their demands. These demands are:

  • To appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the murder of Sean Monterrosa.
  • To fire, arrest and charge office[r] Jarrett Tonn.
  • To investigate every officer involved in the destruction of evidence.

None of these demands are unwarranted. The circumstances that may have led Michelle and Ashley to boldly hold a non-violent protest were the result of your inaction and lack of acknowledgment. I want you to know that the support the Monterrosa family has now reached far more than 17 protesters: It is a force uniting the Black and Brown communities across our dear state of California. 

After the Solano County District Attorney Krishna Abrams announced her recusal from officer-involved shooting cases for both Willie McCoy and Sean Monterrosa in July 2020, we were relieved to see movement on the case and awaited your response. However, it was not until October that you finally informed the public that your office was reviewing the DA’s decision in order to fully understand exactly why DA Abrams decided to recuse herself. 

“That’s going to take a lot more work than passing a piece of legislation.” Is that not what you said? Well, I am writing to you now and letting you know exactly what that work looks like. 

I agree that you should fully inform yourself before taking action, but DA Abrams has been quite clear in saying: “The current circumstances compel an outside review to not only restore public trust, preserve the safety of our community, but also provide confidence in the outcome.” There is no question that this case has further deteriorated public trust in law enforcement – Vallejo PD has gone as far as destroying evidence in order to protect Officer Tonn. 

The Solano County DA’s office is not the only one echoing our sentiments. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has also publicly called for “the urgency and necessity of an outside, independent federal investigation,” clearly stating that the FBI should be the ones to investigate both Sean’s murder and the destruction of essential evidence pertaining to the homicide. 

You have often pivoted conversations about the Monterrosa case to the modest changes in laws you have signed this year regarding law enforcement tactics. Although merited, those small changes hardly make a difference in the bigger picture of police accountability, restoring trust between the community and Vallejo PD and building transparency on the part of police departments across California. 

“That’s going to take a lot more work than passing a piece of legislation.” Is that not what you said? Well, I am writing to you now and letting you know exactly what that work looks like. 

I hope that you make haste and accept your duties as an elected official, both to the Monterrosa family and the Bay Area, and not allow justice for this family to be delayed further. I hope that you agree it is more important to restore public trust in law enforcement and rebuild these relationships, just as your Bay Area community, Solano county DA’s office and elected officials have pledged. 

Sincerely, 

Mona Loré, Dec. 24, 2020

Mona Loré is a Honduran-born artist, writer and graduate of San Francisco State University. She is an active supporter of grassroots efforts and social justice movements in her Bay Area community. Mona’s art, writing and monologue performances speak on the loss of identity experienced as a result of migration.