Officer charged in shooting death of Black man in a Walmart

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By The Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A San Francisco Bay Area police officer has been charged with voluntary manslaughter in the shooting death of a Black man inside a Walmart store in April.

Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley announced Wednesday that her office has filed the charge against San Leandro Police Officer Jason Fletcher, 49, in the April 18 killing of Steven Taylor, 33.

Fletcher had responded to a call about an alleged shoplifter inside the store who was holding a baseball bat.

A 20-year veteran, Fletcher did not wait for backup and instead tried to grab the bat from Taylor, then fired his Taser and his service weapon, all in less than 40 seconds, prosecutors said.

Police were called to the store by a security guard who reported a possible robbery. Fletcher was the first officer to arrive and spoke to the security guard who told him it was not a robbery, information the officer relayed to police dispatch through his radio, prosecutors said.

"Officer Fletcher did not wait for his cover officer and immediately contacted Mr. Taylor in the shopping cart area," they said.

Surveillance video showed Fletcher pulled out his service pistol at the same time he tried to take the bat from Taylor. Taylor pulled the bat from Fletcher’s grasp and stepped away. Shortly after, Fletcher shot Taylor twice with his taser and as Taylor struggled to remain standing, Fletcher shot him in the chest just as another officer arrived in the store, prosecutors said.

“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.”

San Leandro Police Chief Jeff Tudor said in a statement it was important to allow “the judicial process to take its course” and referred all questions to the district attorney’s office.

“As the Police Chief of San Leandro, I know the loss of Steven Taylor has deeply affected this community,” Tudor said.

Fletcher is expected to be arraigned Sept. 15.