BY, KATE FELDMAN – NY Daily News
A California police officer was charged with voluntary manslaughter Wednesday after he fatally shot a Black man wielding a baseball bat inside a Walmart in April.
San Leandro officer Jason Fletcher failed to attempt to de-escalate the situation before shooting 33-year-old Steven Demarco Taylor on April 18, Alameda County District Attorney Nancy E. O’Malley announced Wednesday, saying that Taylor did not pose an “imminent threat of death or great bodily injury to Officer Fletcher or to anyone else in the store.”
“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 said in a statement.
“The work of police officers is critical to the health, safety and well-being of our communities. Their job is one of the most demanding in our society, especially in these current challenging times. They are sworn to uphold and enforce the laws.”
Fletcher responded to the San Francisco Bay Area Walmart around 3 p.m. on April 18 after Taylor attempted to leave the store with an aluminum baseball bat and a tent without paying, according to the district attorney’s office.
Without waiting for backup, Fletcher approached Taylor near the shopping carts and attempted to take the bat away from him with one hand while reaching for his gun with the other.
Taylor was able to yank the bat away, at which point Fletcher pulled out his stun gun and told Taylor to “drop the bat man, drop the bat.”
When he refused, Fletcher used the stun gun on Taylor, then shot him in the chest.
Witness reports and surveillance footage showed that the entire encounter, between Fletcher entering the store and shooting Taylor, lasted barely 40 seconds.
“I know the loss of Steven Taylor has deeply affected this community,” San Leandro Police Chief Jeff Tudor said in a statement Wednesday. “Today, the District Attorney has charged Officer Jason Fletcher with voluntary manslaughter. It is important that we allow the judicial process to take its course.”
Taylor’s family had publicly called for Fletcher to face charges for the fatal shooting.
“You talked about Mr. Floyd, you talked about Ms. Taylor. This happened in your community!” his grandmother, Addie Kitchen, told CBS San Francisco.
“They committed a crime, they murdered my grandson! If you murdered someone, you would be in jail.”
Fletcher is set to be arraigned Sept. 15.