San Leandro, CA — Deadly force, in the land of the free, is not the exception. It is the norm. In cases in which mentally ill people need help, all too often, police show up and give them bullets instead of that help. A tragic case out of San Leandro, California this week illustrates the propensity of police officers to escalate to deadly force in cases where mentally ill people are in a crisis. A man was killed inside a Walmart for wielding a bat.
A video uploaded to social media over the weekend shows the interaction between two San Leandro cops and 33-year-old Steven 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.
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 Taylor inside brandishing a bat "menacingly" as they tried to detain him.
"This dude was saying he wanted to die before the police even arrived...he waited for the police to get here while he was swinging a bat," said Instagram poster Mike_Myke, who claimed to be in the store when the video was taken.
On Sunday, the San Leandro Police Department issued the following statement in regard to the shooting.
On April 18, 2020, about 3:12PM, San Leandro Police Officers responded to Walmart, located at 15555 Hesperian Boulevard, for a report of a man brandishing a baseball bat inside the store. Upon their arrival, officers saw a man standing near the shopping cart storage bay holding a baseball bat. Officers approached the man and gave him commands to put down the bat. The man did not comply with the officers’ commands and instead walked towards the officers while still holding the bat. An officer discharged his taser, which was not effective, and the man continued walking towards the officers. Then, the officer used his service weapon, striking the man once in his upper torso. Seconds later, another officer discharged his taser at the man. Officers called for paramedics and provided first aid until they arrived. Despite life-saving measures, the man died from his injuries at the scene. Our thoughts are with the man’s family during this time.
The City of San Leandro is committed to thoroughly investigating this incident. As with all officer involved shootings, the department will be conducting a complete multi-level review. The officers involved were placed on administrative leave which is standard protocol in any officer involved shooting. The Alameda County District Attorney’s Office will also conduct an independent investigation of the incident, as they do with all officer involved shootings that result in injury or death.
Anyone with information regarding this incident is urged to contact the San Leandro Police Department at (510) 577-2740.
Although Taylor was accused of threatening people, at no time did he actually attack anyone.
As the video shows, Taylor is agitated and not obeying police officers at all. Police deployed the taser, but it apparently missed. When Taylor advanced toward the officer, the officer fired off a round.
“Get back!” “Get back!” they yell several times, as a person in the background can be heard shouting “Put it down! Put it down!”
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After he was hit with the bullet, Taylor dropped the bat. We can hear two more 'popping sounds' which some say was gunfire. TFTP cannot confirm what these sounds were. They could have been a taser deployment as Taylor collapsed after the first pop.
However, many people took to social media to claim the cop shot Taylor again — in the back — after he dropped the bat.
On Sunday, San Leandro police Chief Jeff Tudor pushed back against these claims with a video, stating that Taylor was only shot once in the chest. He made no mention of the taser deployment after the officer opened fire.
This is a community message from Chief Jeff Tudor regarding yesterday's officer-involved shooting.
Posted by San Leandro Police Department on Sunday, April 19, 2020
“Our officer discharged his service weapon one time, striking the subject in the front of his upper body,” Tudor said. “It is still early on in this investigation, and we will provide you more information in the near future... Your patience is needed. Thank you."
The family has since hired a civil rights attorney who claims that Taylor's death is unjustified and unlawful. They have ordered an independent autopsy and have dispatched a private investigator.
NBC Bay Area interviewed a friend of Taylor's who described the man as a loving father of a little boy 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.”