From alleged in-house corruption to officer-involved shootings, the Vallejo Police Department has spent the past year on the wrong end of a slew of criticism.
Sonya Mitchell, however, decided to bring flowers.
Mitchell is the mother of 23-year-old Daimon Ferguson, who was killed on Sept. 3. Ferguson was inside his sister’s home on Sept. 2 near midnight on the night of the shooting when he got called outside. A car came around the corner and some 60 shots were fired at the house around midnight on Adele Street, according to Mitchell.
This week the investigation, led by the VPD Detective Division and Crime Reduction Team, culminated in the arrest of three murder suspects — Jadontae Braelynelrich Foster, Dashanna Cordoba and Destinee McFarland. All suspects are 23 years old and from Vallejo.
While Mitchell is still in grief over the murder of her son, she is extremely happy about the VPD working hard to bring in the three suspects.
On Tuesday Mitchell decided to visit the VPD station on Amador Street and give the police some flowers, a card and her son’s obituary. The Times-Herald listened to the exchange on the phone as the organization initially seemed confused at the sight of the gifts.
After leaving the station just moments later, Mitchell broke down crying and screaming in front of the station saying, “I miss you baby. I miss you Dada,” over and over again.
Although Mitchell realizes and understands why many people don’t care for the VPD these days, she thought it was an absolute must she showed her support after their work concerning her son.
“I am proud and elated because they gave me their word and promised me that they would handle this and they did,” Mitchell said. “They gave me hope.”
Two of the suspects — Foster and Cordoba — were located and arrested in El Paso, Texas, while McFarland was arrested in Fairfield. Mitchell said she has never heard or seen any of them and believes her son didn’t know them either.
“Nope, never heard of them,” Mitchell said. “But I’m sure they will give their own story in jail.”
Mitchell said that many people went above and beyond in showing they cared for her son. For example, the people in the morgue gave her son a matching pillow to go with her son’s blanket and made him look comfortable, she said.
Mitchell also said she received a telephone call recently from Vallejo Chief of Police Shawny Williams.
“I talked to some of the detectives that worked on the case like Detective Terry Schillinger as well as the police chief,” she said. “To me, for the police chief to give me a call after this and talk with me for an hour, that was big. That was bigger than big to me. He told me he wants to get an organization together in 2021 of of mothers and fathers that have been impacted by shootings like mine.”
In a news release on Thursday, Williams spoke of Ferguson’s family.
“My deepest sympathies are with the parents and family of Mr. Ferguson,” Williams wrote in the statement. “We want the families of those who’ve fallen victim to senseless violence to know that we care, and that our officers are working tirelessly to bring justice in these cases.”
Despite being appreciative of what the VPD did for her son, she wondered about possible backlash on social media or in person if she thanked them. The VPD has seen plenty of controversy in the past decade, but especially in 2020.
On June 2 of this year, 22-year-old Sean Monterrosa was shot by Vallejo Police Officer Jarrett Tonn in front of a Walgreens while Vallejo was under curfew in response to looting. At the time of the shooting, Tonn said he believed a hammer in Monterrosa’s pocket was a gun. Body cam footage, released the next month, did not show Monterrosa at the time of the shooting or moments previous to the shooting.
The VPD came under more scrutiny due to evidence being destroyed in the Monterrosa case, including the windshield of the vehicle involved in the incident. More turmoil for VPD came when Open Vallejo released a story in late July claiming VPD officers over the years had bent the points of their badges each time they had had a kill in the line of duty.
Earlier this month more turmoil came when a lawyer for the Vallejo Police Officers Association confirmed that a disturbing email sent and written by its president, Lt. Michael Nichelini, let former San Francisco Chronicle columnist Otis R. Taylor know that “2021 will be a little bit better not having your biased and uniformed (sic) articles printed in the newspaper that only inflame the public … you have never looked for the truth in any of your writings … We will warn our Georgia colleagues of your impending arrival.”
Despite all of this in 2020, Mitchell still felt thanking the VPD for the way they handled her son’s case was the right thing to do.
“I was a little scared at what people might think. When you go to the Vallejo Police Station you see things written in chalk saying stuff like pig this and pig that,” Mitchell said. “I thought that on social media people might hate me and say things like ‘F%$^ the police! F%$^ Sonya Mitchell and F%$^ her son!’ But it’s been different, it’s been all positive. I’m not going to lie, I could have collapsed from all the positivity. People have been coming up to me and hugging me. They just tell me that they can’t believe this happened to me and that it has given them hope that maybe the police can solve cases concerning them.”
Mitchell said she now for the first time in a while has hope for Vallejo and its police force in 2021.
“Until you see your child at the morgue (takes a few moments to regain her composure) you have no idea what kind of grief that is,” Mitchell said. “Until you see your own child like that, you will never know the pain that we live with. It’s like being in a club we didn’t want to join.
“But this time there is hope,” Mitchell continued. “I don’t know what is going to happen in the new year, but I feel they (VPD) can now work on turning things around. I feel that finally they did a good deed, especially in the black community. Finally I like what I see. Finally I see hope. So I felt I had to say something, that I appreciate their work.”