San Leandro, CA — As TFTP reported this week, a tragic case out of San Leandro, California illustrates the propensity of police officers to escalate to deadly force in cases where mentally ill people are in a crisis and need help — not bullets. A man was killed inside a Walmart for holding a bat. After the community expressed their outrage, police were forced to release the body camera footage days later and it does not bode well for their case.
The incident unfolded on Saturday as police were called out to the Walmart over an alleged robbery. Police said when they arrived at the store, there was no robbery, but they found, 33-year-old Steven Taylor, inside brandishing a bat “menacingly” as they tried to detain him.
The officers are seen getting very close to Taylor and he never once takes a swing.
The video shows the officers then taser the mentally ill man before shooting him in the chest for wielding the bat. While the original video was grainy and from far away, this video shows that there was likely no need to open fire on the mentally ill man.
“We know this incident has garnered much attention in our community, and that’s why we’re releasing this video now, before the investigation is complete so that we can provide as much information as possible to our community as the process continues,” San Leandro Police Chief Jeff Tudor said in the video posted on the department’s YouTube page.
The video shows officers confront Taylor who appears agitated but never once attempts to swing the bat at the officers or charge them like they claimed. When the first officer deployed his taser, Taylor started leaning forward — not like he was charging the officers — but as if he was about to fall over. That’s when the unnamed officer fired his weapon.
“Get back!” “Get back!” they yell several times, as a person in the background can be heard shouting “Put it down! Put it down!”
The gunshot appeared to be entirely unnecessary, which is why so many onlookers inside the Walmart gasped when they watched it and spoke out, saying “don’t shoot him anymore!”
Despite dropping the bat and turning around to fall down, the other officer deployed his taser causing Taylor to collapse.
Another video uploaded to social media over the weekend shows the interaction between two San Leandro cops and Taylor. The video, which is less than a minute long, shows officers engaging Taylor, who is refusing their commands to “drop the bat.” Seconds later, Taylor is face down on the ground, dying.
This man was killed — not for attacking people — but refusing to drop sporting equipment when cops demanded he do so. The body camera footage blurs out the officers’ name tags and is provided with their commentary in an attempt to justify the shooting. Many people will watch this, however, and find that it was anything but justified.
“In the following video, the names of the officers have been redacted. This step was taken due to threats of violence against our officers. The names will ultimately be released in another forum,” the video stated.
“Anytime we have an officer-involved shooting, it is a matter we take very seriously and a number of steps and investigations automatically begin,” said Tudor. “This was a traumatic experience for all involved including the numerous witnesses at the store that afternoon. Our thoughts are with the families affected by this tragic incident.”
Although Taylor was accused of threatening people, at no time did he actually attack anyone.
Attorney S. Lee Merritt, a prominent police brutality attorney in the country has taken the family’s case. In a statement, Merritt called the officers’a actions “criminal.”
“At some point in this exchange the officers’ behavior became criminal, namely when the suspect (Taylor) was disarmed,” Merritt wrote. “These officers are not only poorly trained to deal with individuals suffering from a mental health crisis, their intentional and repeated application of force, despite the absence of a threat, captured in these recordings (videos of the incident) is sufficient evidence for authorities to issue an arrest warrant for the shooting officers.”
Merritt also pointed out how the officers opening fire inside a crowded Walmart put everyone in the store in danger, not just Taylor, and that not immediately arresting the cop who killed Taylor puts the community in danger.
“Failure to identify and arrest the shooter unnecessarily exposes the public to a deadly threat,” he said.
NBC Bay Area interviewed a friend of Taylor’s who described the man as a loving father of a little boy and who had not seemed like himself lately.
“I am sorry for his family and for his friends,” Flood said. “We will miss him, and we love him.”
Below is the original video.