SAN LEANDRO (CBS SF) -- A San Leandro police officer was charged with voluntary manslaughter Wednesday in the fatal shooting of a man wielding a baseball bat inside a Walmart store in April.
Alameda County District Attorney Nancy E. O'Malley announced Wednesday afternoon her office filed the felony complaint against San Leandro Police Officer Jason Fletcher for fatally shooting 33-year-old Steven Demarco Taylor on April 18 at the Walmart Store on 1555 Hesperian Blvd.
O'Malley filed voluntary manslaughter charges but one legal expert KPIX 5 talked with says the death of Steven Taylor was murder.
"You look at the facts, in my view, those facts do not amount to voluntary manslaughter. It's at least second degree murder," says LaDoris Cordell, a retired Superior Court Judge. "It is difficult for me to believe that one could not have the intent to kill another person when the officer took his gun, out it in front of the victim and shot him in the chest."
Police were called to the store after workers confronted Taylor for allegedly trying to leave without paying for items. Police body cam video shows officers repeatedly ordering Taylor to put down the aluminum bat he was waving before Officer Fletcher deploys a Taser against him. After a second pulse, Taylor continued to move toward the Fletcher, who then fired one round from his service weapon, hitting Taylor in the chest.
After being shot, Taylor then moved away and dropped the bat just as another officer deployed his Taser on Taylor, who then fells to the ground. Less than 40 seconds elapsed from the time Fletcher entered the store to the time he shot and killed Taylor, the DA's office 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," said O'Malley in a prepared 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."
Family members now hope justice will be served now that the Alameda County District Attorney's office has filed criminal charges against the officer.
Taylor's family had demanded charges be filed against the officers involved, saying they were not trained to deal with someone having a mental health crisis.
"The way our police should be reformed is to help people with mental illnesses; that when you call an officer on a Black person, it's not going to end well," said Taylor's mother, Sharon Taylor, in June.
"For the families that we work with, that's the number one thing they want and they never get in terms of justice is for the officers that killed their loved ones to be charged and ultimately convicted," said Cat Brooks with the Anti-Police Terror Project.
Brooks hopes these charges send a message to law enforcement to use every de-escalation option possible, before taking a life.
"I do think it would be an incentive for them to not pull the trigger so fast. Even though our humanity should be that incentive, clearly it has not been," said Brooks.
San Leandro Police Chief Jeff Tudor issued a statement Wednesday saying, "As the Police Chief of San Leandro, I know the loss of Steven Taylor has deeply affected this community. 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. I will refer all questions to the District Attorney's Office."
Fletcher was expected to be arraigned on September 15 at the East County Hall of Justice in Dublin.
KPIX 5 reached out to Officer Fletcher's defense attorney but have not heard back.
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