A California police officer was charged on Wednesday (September 2) with voluntary manslaughter after he fatally shot a Black man who wielded a baseball bat inside a Walmart in April.
According to Alameda County District Attorney Nancy E. O’Malley, San Leandro officer Jason Fletcher shot and killed 33-year-old Steven Demarco Taylor on April 18 without attempting to de-escalate the situation. O’Malley says 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, according to the New York Daily News. She then continued, “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.”
O’Malley also said that Fletcher did not attempt to escalate the situation to the satisfaction of the law.
“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 in the statement. “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 responded to a call to a San Francisco Bay Area Walmart store at around 3 pm after Taylor tried leaving the store with an aluminum baseball bat and tent without purchasing the items, the district attorney’s office claims.
Fletcher, without waiting for backup, approached Taylor and attempted to take the bat away from him with one hand while reaching for his gun with the other.
Fletcher failed to take the bat away from Taylor and subsequently pulled out his stun gun, demanding Taylor to “drop the bat.” When he refused, Fletcher deployed the stun gun and shot Taylor in the chest.
“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 been demanding Fletcher be charged for the killing.
Fletcher is set to be arraigned on September 15.
Photo of Steven Taylor courtesy of S. Lee Merritt Esq. & Photo of Jason Fletcher via San Leandro Police Department