"These police executed my brother," the dead man's sister told a crowd Wednesday. Family members and friends of Mario Romero are still looking for answers from the Vallejo Police Department after Sunday morning's fatal shooting. "There's nothing to justify what they have done, when they did not even give him a chance," said Romero's mother Cynthia Martin. "They shot my son execution style."
However, the police chief defended the actions of his officers who came upon Romero and Joseph Johnson sitting in a car at 4:00 in the morning. They ordered them out of the car. They say Romero had a gun in his waistband. "The driver, Mr. Romero, reached down towards the handgun, at which time, the officers engaged him with lethal force," said Vallejo Chief of Police Joseph Kreins.
They fired 31 rounds. Romero never fired a shot. "I think the amount of shots they take are, in the officer's mind, in regards to the perception to abate the threat at that particular time," Kreins said. "One of the officers did get up on the hood of the car not to fire, in fact, they had stopped firing at that point. He did get up on the hood of the car to take a look inside the car."
Police say the gun Romero was carrying was a replica of a Beretta handgun. There have been several incidents involving officers, five of them fatalities, since May. Still, the chief says his officers are not using excessive force. "Individuals who are seemingly more willing to confront our officers with guns, I think that that is going to be a recipe for disaster," Kreins said.
In the neighborhood where the shooting happened, a memorial continues to grow with candles and pictures. Romero's family denies that he was carrying a gun or that he even had one. Investigators have still not spoken to any members of the family including a sister who witnessed what happened. They mayor's office is trying to arrange a meeting between the family, the police chief, and the mayor's office next week.