The district attorney said that the white cop’s confrontation with the man was an unreasonable use of deadly force, with the officer being charged under a newly enhanced California law that deems deadly force only necessary when needed to defend human life, CNN reports.
San Leandro police officer Jason Fletcher was charged on Wednesday with voluntary manslaughter for fatally shooting 33-year-old Steven Taylor. The two encountered each other at a Walmart, where they struggled over a baseball bat.
Last year, California lawmakers passed one of the toughest police deadly force measures in the nation after a Sacramento prosecutor refused to charge two officers in the murder of Stephon Clark, an unarmed Black man who was killed in his grandmother’s backyard.
During the incident in Walmart, prosecutors concluded that Taylor wasn’t an urgent threat to the police when Fletcher shot him to death.
“The decision to file the criminal complaint was made after an intensive investigation and thorough analysis of the evidence and the current law,” Alameda County District Attorney Nancy 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.”
O’Malley pointed to the newly strengthened law that went into effect on Jan. 1, saying that its “intent is that peace officers use deadly force only when necessary in defense of human life. The legislature declared officers shall use other available resources and techniques if reasonably safe and feasible to an objectively reasonable officer.”
Fletcher has been on leave since the incident, with his arraignment slated for Sept. 15.
“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,” a DA's statement reads.
Fletcher and a second officer arrived at the San Leandro Walmart on April 18 in response to a report of an alleged shoplifter holding a baseball bat. Store security blocked Taylor when he attempted to leave with the bat and a tent.
Fletcher decided not to wait for his partner and confronted Taylor on his own. He tried to grab the bat from Taylor, while drawing his service pistol. Taylor pulled the bat away and the officer moved back. Fletcher then pulled out his stun gun and tased Taylor, who stumbled. With the bat pointed toward the ground, he struggled to remain standing, which is when Fletcher shot Taylor in the chest just as the second officer entered the store. Less than 40 seconds passed from the time Fletcher entered the store to when Taylor hit the floor.