Published 6:00 PM EDT Sep 3, 2020
A California police officer was charged Wednesday with voluntary manslaughter after fatally shooting a Black man inside a Walmart earlier this year, authorities said.
San Leandro Police Officer Jason Fletcher shot and killed Steven Taylor less than 40 seconds after he entered the Walmart where Taylor was allegedly trying to leave with out paying, according to Alameda County District Attorney Nancy E. O’Malley. O’Malley said Fletcher’s use of deadly force was unreasonable in part because of his “his failure to attempt other de-escalation options.”
“We understand the anger and frustration and grief that this killing has brought to you,” she said in a video statement. “And I assure you that we will seek justice.”
The incident, which was captured on video, began on April 18 when Fletcher responded to the Walmart store after a security guard called police to report a theft and possible robbery. Taylor had reportedly grabbed an aluminum baseball bat and a tent before he was stopped by security.
Fletcher did not wait for his cover officer and instead tried to take the bat from Taylor while also pulling out his gun. Taylor grabbed the bat and backed up several feet as Fletcher tells him to drop it.
Fletcher then drew his Taser and shot Taylor with it twice from about 17 feet away, according to the statement. Taylor “clearly experienced the shock of the taser” as he struggled to remain standing while pointing the bat at the ground, the statement said.
Although Taylor did not pose “an imminent threat of death or great bodily injure” to Fletcher or anyone else in the store, the officer shot him in the chest just as backup arrived.
Taylor dropped the bat, turned away, and fell to the ground. He was later pronounced dead.
“I know the loss of Steven Taylor has deeply affected this community,” San Leandro Police Chief Jeff Tudor said in a statement Wednesday. “It is important that we allow the judicial process to take its course.”
Fletcher is expected to be arraigned on Sept. 15.
The charges come just days after California police shot another Black man in a separate incident that sparked protests following months of nationwide demonstrations against police brutality in systemic racism sparked by the death of George Floyd.
On Monday, two deputies fatally shot a Black man who scuffled with them after they tried to stop him for riding a bicycle in an unlawful manner, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department said. Officials said the man, Dijon Kizzee, was reaching for a handgun at the time of the shooting.
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