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Jason Fletcher, a San Leandro, California, police officer is facing a felony manslaughter charge stemming from the fatal shooting of Steven Taylor, 33, back in April at a Walmart, The New York Times reports.
Alameda District Attorney Nancy E. O’Malley noted in a press release that “charging a police officer with voluntary manslaughter is not a decision that is made lightly, nor rashly.”
Still, the DA added, “I believe Officer Fletcher’s actions, coupled with his 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.”
Taylor’s fatal encounter with Fletcher occurred on April 18.
Taylor allegedly entered the Walmart and picked up an aluminum baseball bat and a tent, before attempting to leave without paying for the items. Store security stopped Taylor from leaving and asked him to return the items.
A security guard called 911 to report the theft and possible robbery. Fletcher was already nearby when he got the dispatch.
The DA’s office noted that Fletcher did not wait for his cover officer, but instead approached Taylor, grabbing at the bat with his left hand to try and take it away while drawing his service weapon at the same time.
Taylor pulled the bat away from Fletcher and stepped away, at which point, Fletcher drew his taser with his left hand and pointed it at the 33-year old.
“Drop the bat, man. Drop the bat,” Fletcher insisted, according to the DA’s report.
Fletcher shot Taylor with his taser as he approached the man again.
“Officer Fletcher tased Mr. Taylor again, and Mr. Taylor clearly experienced the shock of the taser as he was leaning forward over his feet and stumbling forward. Mr. Taylor was struggling to remain standing as he pointed the bat at the ground,” the DA’s report read. “Mr. Taylor posed no threat of imminent deadly force or serious bodily injury to defendant Fletcher or anyone else in the store. Defendant Fletcher shot Mr. Taylor in the chest just as backup Officer Overton arrived in the store.”
The press release noted that less than 40 seconds had passed in the time from which Fletcher entered the store to the time in which he shot and killed Taylor.
According to ABC 7, family members say that Taylor was homeless at the time of the shooting and may have been experiencing a mental health crisis.
“The way our police should be reformed is to help people with mental illnesses; that when you call an officer on a Black person, it’s not going to end well,” his mother, Sharon Taylor, told CBS San Francisco in June.
Fletcher is expected to be arraigned on September 15.
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