California officer charged in shooting death of Black man at Walmart

California officer charged in shooting death of Black man at Walmart

SAN FRANCISCO — A California police officer was charged with voluntary manslaughter on Wednesday in the shooting death of a Black man inside a Walmart store in April, prosecutors said.

Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley said charges were filed against San Leandro police Officer Jason Fletcher in connection with the shooting death of 33-year-old Steven Demarco Taylor on April 18, KGO-TV reported.

Police were called to the store after workers confronted Taylor and accused him of trying to leave without paying for items, KPIX reported. According to police body cameras, officers repeatedly ordered Taylor to put down an aluminum baseball bat he was waving, the television station reported.

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Fletcher, who did not wait for backup, grabbed the bat from Taylor, shot him with a taser, KGO reported. When Taylor continued to advance toward Fletcher, the officer fired one round from his service weapon and wounded Taylor in the chest, the television station reported. The exchange took less than 40 seconds, according to The Associated Press.

“A thorough review of the statements of witnesses and involved police officers, physical evidence and the review of multiple videos of the shooting shows that at the time of the shooting it was not reasonable to conclude Mr. Taylor posed an imminent threat of death or great bodily injury to Officer Fletcher or to anyone else in the store,” O’Malley said. “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.”

Fletcher, a 20-year veteran, was placed on administrative leave after the shooting, KGO reported.

In June, Taylor’s family called for charges to be filed against the officers involved, saying they were not trained to deal with a person with 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,” Taylor’s mother, Sharon Taylor, told KPIX.

In a statement Wednesday, San Leandro police Chief Jeff Tudor said Taylor’s death “has deeply affected this community.”

“Today, the district attorney has charged Officer Jason Fletcher with voluntary manslaughter,” Tudor said. “It is important that we allow the judicial process to take its course. I will refer all questions to the District Attorney’s Office.”

Fletcher is expected to be arraigned Sept. 15, KPIX reported.