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Vallejo Police Defend Shooting Man With Pellet Gun 31 Times

VALLEJO (KCBS)— The Vallejo Police Department held a news conference Wednesday to respond to community concerns after a series of officer-involved shootings, including a deadly confrontation Sunday where police fired 31 rounds at a man carrying a pellet gun.

Mario Romero, 23, known as "Papaya" by friends, died before dawn Sunday and his brother-in-law, Joseph Johnson, 21, was shot through his hip and hospitalized.

Officers were in the 100 block area of Pepper Drive, an area known for its gang activity, around 4:30 a.m. when they saw a car with two men inside, police shined their lights and approached.

Police said Romero reached for a gun and officers then fired 31 rounds. Romero's weapon turned out to be a non-lethal pellet gun, police acknowleged.

KCBS' Jeffrey Schaub Reports:

Cynthia Mitchell, Romero's mother, and other family members expressed outrage over the shooting.

"A normal human being wouldn't have done what they've done. Wouldn't have jumped up on the car, wouldn't have used the force that they did," she said.

Angry members of the community gathered outside of the police headquarters building on Wednesday while Chief of Police Joseph Kreins spoke to the media inside.

Kreins defended his police force, which has had seven officer-involved shootings recently -- five of them ending in fatalities.

"As with many shooting calls our officers respond to, it only stands to reason our officers are going to become engaged in lethal confrontations," Kreins said.

Romero and Johnson were on probation for felony weapons charges at they time they were shot by officers, according to police, who indicated there was conflicting information as to whether the two had gang ties. Authorities also said 50 ecstasy pills of were found inside the car that the pair were sitting in.

The officers involved in the shootings of Romero and Johnson were put on paid administrative leave pending an investigation.

The Airsoft gun Romero was carrying is a replica of a Beretta firearm that fires plastic pellets or BBs and is widely used for recreation, according to authorities.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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