North Bay News
Family seeks answers after officer-involved shooting
VALLEJO (KGO) -- An investigation is underway into Vallejo's seventh officer-involved shooting of the year. Twenty-three-year-old Mario Romero was killed early Sunday morning near Pepper Drive and Lofas Place. Another man was injured and remains hospitalized.
There is a memorial outside the house where the men were shot in front of, but there is also a lingering mistrust of the police, who are facing questions about an unusually high number of shootings.
"I was right here in this window, between here and here, banging on the window," Romero's sister Cynquita Martin said.
Martin says she watched her brother die early Sunday morning after uniformed police rolled up to a car parked at Pepper Drive and Lofas Place, first shining a spotlight and then opening fire when they say Romero pulled a gun that was in his waistband. Romero was killed and 21-year-old Joseph Johnson, who was in the passenger seat, was wounded in the torso.
"I see Joe's hands outside of the car through the cracked window and the officers hopped on top of the car and was letting his gun loose; he was just shooting and shooting and shooting," Martin said.
This is the seventh shooting involving Vallejo police since May, the fifth fatal. Vallejo's Citizen's Advisory Committee would like an explanation.
"I do believe the department needs to take a serious look at why police officers seem to be resorting to deadly force more this year than in the past," committee spokesperson Karol Heppe said.
Police say they were at the scene Sunday morning because of an ongoing gang problem in the area and wanted to check out the two men sitting in the car. Police say officers fired at Romero after he pulled what appeared to be a gun and then went back into his car. Police fired about 30 rounds, claiming they did not have time to verbally identify themselves.
"Well, it's unrealistic to think you're going to wait for return fire and basically assess each round, that's not what happens," Vallejo Police Sgt. Jeff Bassett said. "What happens is they assess the situation that either calls for lethal force or it doesn't call for lethal force."
Police say they found an Airsoft pistol inside the vehicle. Family members dispute that and say Romero never had a chance to get out of the car.
"It's just unjust that he couldn't come home; this was supposed to be his safe place, when you go home, this is your safe place and they took that away from all of us in this house," Martin said.
Police say the men were on felony probation for weapons violations and they found more than 50 ecstasy pills in the car.
Family members do not trust the local investigation and want the state to take over.
The family is planning a protest march for Tuesday at 11 a.m. that will start at the police department.
vallejo, shooting, north bay news
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