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Bay Area cops kill Black man in front of his own home

Bay Area cops kill Black man in front of his own home.

September 11, 2012

Community protest against police shooting in Vallejo

In the early hours of Sept. 2, the Vallejo Police Department claimed its fifth shooting fatality in four months. Mario Romero, a 23-year-old African-American father, died after two cops fired 31 rounds into his vehicle.

Romero and his brother-in-law, 21-year-old Joseph Johnson, were sitting in Romero’s car talking in front of Romero’s house. Suddenly, a police cruiser pulled up in front of the car and a bright light was shined into the eyes of the two men. The cops started screaming at them to put their hands up but never identified themselves as police.

The police claim that Johnson put his hands up but that Romero opened the car door and appeared to be exiting. The cops maintain that they saw a gun in Romero’s waistband as he was exiting while simultaneously claiming that their view of Romero was obscured by the open car door. Under this pretext the police justify their shooting Romero.

After being shot, police say Romero appeared to be clutching something from behind the car door. They say he did not put his hands up when ordered to do so a second time, so the cops then fired a total of 31 rounds into the vehicle, killing Romero and severely wounding Johnson. After the shooting, the cops allege they found a pellet gun, which is neither dangerous nor illegal, in Romero’s car. No actual gun was found in the car.

What the cops did not know was that there was a witness in the house. The bright lights and screaming that preceded the shooting awoke Cynquita Martin, Romero’s sister. She looked out her window and saw cops pointing guns at her brother and brother-in-law as they sat in the car. She says that the cops started shooting instantly after ordering the men to put their hands up. Romero never even began to leave the car. After firing several rounds at the two men, Martin said one of the cops “hopped on top of the car and he was just letting his gun loose. He was just shooting and shooting.”

After hearing Martin’s account of the events, the police acknowledged that one of the cops jumped on top of the car after the shots were fired but claimed the officer was checking to see whether there was anyone else in the vehicle beside Romero and Johnson. This is hardly a more comforting account of the incident. From his hospital bed, Johnson has backed Martin’s version of events. He maintains that there was no pellet gun in the car and that neither he nor Romero ever exited the vehicle.

Romero’s relatives have set up daily protests outside the Vallejo Police Department. Martin has been a vocal leader, demanding answers: “All this inside stuff—all these internal investigations—they aren’t working. We need answers. This needs to end.”The family has found support from Adam and Jeralynn Blueford, who have become leaders of the anti-police brutality movement in the Bay Area since their son Adam was killed by an Oakland cop on May 6.

Vallejo police chief Joseph Kreins made this disgusting defense of the officers involved in the shooting: “When dealing with violent confrontations, our officers are trained to use whatever force is reasonable and necessary to effect an arrest or eliminate a threat. In this case, [the officers] fired several rounds, stopped firing, re-evaluated the threat and then continued firing until they perceived that the threat was no longer imminent.”

In other words, when cops accost a person of color, and “feel threatened,” it is alright for them to shoot that person until they are certain the person is dead.

Martin has said: “It’s unjust that [Romero] couldn’t come home. This is supposed to be his safe place. When you go home that’s supposed to be your safe place. And they took that away from all of us in this house.”

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