SAN LEANDRO (KPIX) -- A group of San Leandro High School students and community members on Sunday honored the life of a man shot and killed by a police officer exactly one year ago. The officer has since been charged with voluntary manslaughter.
"We want change. We want people to wake up and we want people to join the fight because we can't do it ourselves," said Mikal Jackson, a senior in the Social Justice Academy at San Leandro High School.
"The first step to change is to start having that conversation and to start looking within so I think it's very important for other people to be a part of this," said Zaynah Islam, a junior at the school.
The Social Justice Academy students said police reform is not enough.
"We need more mental health groups to deal with these situations and less police. We need to defund the police and put more money into mental health programs," Jackson said.
On April 18, 2020, then San Leandro officer Jason Fletcher responded to a 911 call inside a Walmart store. Investigators said the suspect, Steven Taylor, was holding a baseball bat and causing a disturbance. Taylor's family said he was dealing with a mental health crisis.
Investigators said that within 40 seconds of entering Walmart, Officer Fletcher deployed a Taser, hitting Taylor twice, then shot him once in the chest. Last year The Alameda County District Attorney charged Fletcher with voluntary manslaughter.
Independent investigators hired by the city of San Leandro released a 72-page report this week which concludes that Fletcher failed to wait for backup, failed to de-escalate the situation, failed to use crisis-intervention techniques and failed to follow department policies.
"I think it's frustration because the officers did not do what they were supposedly trained to do," said Taylor's grandmother Addie Kitchen. "We saw that Fletcher was trained (to use de-escalation techniques). He didn't use it. Mental health should've been the forefront."
Kitchen spoke at the event as well as family members of other people killed by the police.
"(I have) a little peace when I see the community, especially the young people, behind this movement," Kitchen said.
The student organizers say there is still a lot more work ahead.
"You can only post so much, you can only talk about it so much. Work gets done when you do the work so please join us and do the work," Jackson said.
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