A San Leandro, Calif. police officer was charged Wednesday in the shooting death of a Black man inside a Walmart, which took place in April. The incident was captured by the officer’s body camera.
The New York Times reports that Officer Jason Fletcher of the San Leandro Police Department has been charged with felony manslaughter in connection with the fatal shooting of 33-year-old Steven Taylor on April 18. Alameda County District Attorney Nancy E. O’Malley released a statement Wednesday saying that the “decision to file the criminal complaint was made after an intensive investigation and thorough analysis of the evidence and the current law.” O’Malley also noted that Fletcher’s “failure to attempt other de-escalation options rendered his use of deadly force unreasonable and a violation of Penal Code Section 192(a), Voluntary Manslaughter.”
O’Malley also emphasized in her statement how quickly events unfolded.
“From the time Officer Fletcher entered the store to the time he shot and killed Mr. Taylor, less than 40 seconds elapsed,” she wrote.
From the Times:
Around 3 p.m., the police in San Leandro, a city south of Oakland, received a call from a security guard at a local Walmart store who reported that a man, Mr. Taylor, was holding an aluminum baseball bat and a tent and was trying to leave the store without paying.
When Officer Fletcher arrived, Mr. Taylor was standing near several shopping carts. Officer Fletcher “did not wait for his cover officer and immediately contacted Mr. Taylor,” according to the district attorney’s office.
After briefly conferring with the security guard, Officer Fletcher confronted Mr. Taylor, the office said. The officer pulled out his gun “at the same time” he tried taking the bat away from Mr. Taylor, according to the office.
“Mr. Taylor pulled the bat from Officer Fletcher’s grasp and stepped away from Officer Fletcher,” the office said. “From a distance of approximately 17 feet, Officer Fletcher drew his Taser with his left hand and pointed it at Mr. Taylor.”
Then, Officer Fletcher yelled at Mr. Taylor to “drop the bat man, drop the bat.” As Mr. Taylor moved toward the officer, he shot him with his Taser, the office said.
At that point, Mr. Taylor “clearly experienced the shock of the Taser” and was “struggling to remain standing as he pointed the bat at the ground.”
Then, for reasons that are unclear, Officer Fletcher shot Mr. Taylor in the chest, according to the office. The shooting occurred “just as” a backup officer arrived at the store, according to the office. Mr. Taylor died at the scene.
O’Malley’s statement mentions that before Fletcher arrived on the scene, two customers approached Taylor and tried to help him. One customer offered him money (presumably so he could pay for the items he was accused of trying to steal), but Taylor told the customer “no thank you.” Walmart security told Taylor the police were on the way and Taylor said he would wait for them to arrive. Taylor was waiting near the shopping cart area when Fletcher showed up.
During a news conference Wednesday, O’Malley declined to discuss the case further but she did assure outraged San Leandro residents that she empathizes with them and that Fletcher’s case is being taken seriously.
“We understand the anger and frustration and grief that this killing has brought to you,” she said in a video statement accompanying the announcement of the charge. “And I assure you that we will seek justice.”