A San Francisco Bay Area police officer was charged Wednesday for voluntary manslaughter of the death of a black man in a Walmart store in April.
The charges were brought on Wednesday in the April 18 murder of Steven Taylor, 33, when San Leandro police officer Jason Fletcher, 49, responded to a call about a suspected shoplifter in the store holding a baseball bat .
As a 20-year veteran, Fletcher didn’t wait for assistance and instead tried to take the bat from Taylor. He then fired his taser and service weapon in less than 40 seconds, Alameda District Attorney Nancy O’Malley said in a release message.
Taylor’s family are encouraged by the decision, their attorney said in a statement.
“Mr. Taylor was in a mental health crisis and posed no threat to officials or the general public before he was verbally abused and shot,” the statement reads. “Although this is an important first step towards justice the family look forward to Fletcher being convicted and properly convicted. “
The police were called into the store by a security guard who reported a possible robbery. Fletcher, the first officer to arrive, made it clear to the guard that it was not a robbery and relayed that information on his police radio, prosecutors said.
“Officer Fletcher didn’t wait for his cover officer and immediately contacted Mr. Taylor in the shopping cart area,” they said.
The surveillance video showed Fletcher pulling out his service pistol as he tried to take the bat from Taylor. Taylor pulled the club from Fletcher’s grip and stepped back.
Shortly thereafter, Fletcher shot Taylor twice with his taser. As Taylor tried to stop, Fletcher shot him in the chest with his service gun when another officer arrived at the store, prosecutors said.
“A thorough review of the testimony of witnesses and police officers involved, physical evidence and review of several videos of the shooting shows that at the time of the shooting it was not reasonable to conclude that Mr. Taylor was an imminent threat of death or serious injury from Officer Fletcher or anyone else in the business, ”O’Malley said.
Taylor’s family has said officials should have tried to de-escalate the situation without firing their guns.
“Yes, he was homeless. Yes, he had mental health problems. Yes, he was black, ”said his grandmother Addie Kitchen at a rally for Taylor last month. “But does that mean we’re murdering homeless people? That the police can kill people with mental health problems? I want to see that this doesn’t happen again. “
San Leandro Police Chief Jeff Tudor said in a statement it was important “the legal process to get underway,” and referred any questions to prosecutors.
“As the San Leandro Police Chief, I know the loss of Steven Taylor has deeply affected this community,” Tudor said.
Fletcher is expected to be indicted on September 15.