It took 40 seconds for San Leandro police officer Jason Fletcher to shoot and kill a man inside a Walmart who was wielding a baseball bat.
And it took just over four months to charge Fletcher with voluntary manslaughter under a new state law that makes it tougher for police to justify on-duty deaths of citizens.
The incident took place on April 18, 2020 after police were dispatched to a Walmart for a report of a man trying to shoplift a baseball bat and a tent. The man, Steven Taylor, 33, was having a mental episode, family members would later say.
Fletcher, the first cop to arrive, tries to take the bat from Taylor but he backed off, still wielding the bat. Fletcher then pulls out his taser and his gun, holding the taser in his left hand, the gun in his right hand.
He fires the taser twice, then fires his gun and Taylor drops the bat and begins walking away. A second cop runs up and tasers him which is when he falls forward.
San Leandro Police Chief Jeff Tudor said the second taser was “ineffective” and that Taylor was walking towards Fletcher, making him fear for his life.
But Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley said Taylor “clearly experienced the shock of the taser as he was leaning forward over his feet and stumbling forward” before he was shot to death.
According to O’Malley’s press release:
Officer Fletcher spoke with store security guard Danny Saephanh for approximately 10 seconds briefing him on what was happening and specifically told him it is not a PC 211 or PC 417, information Officer Fletcher relayed via radio to police dispatch. Security Guard Saephanh then pointed out Mr. Taylor standing next to the shopping carts. Officer Fletcher did not wait for his cover officer and immediately contacted Mr. Taylor in the shopping cart area. Officer Fletcher grabbed the bat with his left hand and attempted to take the bat from Mr. Taylor’s right hand. Officer Fletcher pulled out his service pistol at the same time he tried to take the bat from Mr. Taylor. Mr. Taylor pulled the bat from Officer Fletcher’s grasp and stepped away from Officer Fletcher. From a distance of approximately 17 feet, Officer Fletcher drew his taser with his left hand and pointed it at Mr. Taylor.
Officer Fletcher told Mr. Taylor to “drop the bat man, drop the bat.” Officer Fletcher shot Mr. Taylor with his taser as he advanced towards Mr. Taylor. 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. 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.
Mr. Taylor dropped the bat and turned away from Officer Fletcher and fell to the ground. He was later pronounced dead. From the time Officer Fletcher entered the store to the time he shot and killed Mr. Taylor less than 40 seconds elapsed.
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. 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.
The new law, Assembly Bill 392, which went into effect in January, requires that a police officer “reasonably believes” not using deadly force would lead to “death or serious bodily injury to the officer or to another person.”
Fletcher, a 14-year veteran, is the first cop to be charged in an on-duty shooting death in Alameda County in more than a decade. The last officer was Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer Johannes Mehserle for the shooting death of Oscar Grant.
Fletcher is currently on paid administrative leave. He has been sued twice in the past for excessive force, including in 2007 and in 2009.
Watch the shortened video below or the full-length video where the chief gives his explanation.