OAKLAND, Calif. — In a victory for fighters against police brutality, the San Leandro cop who shot and killed Steven Taylor April 18 in a Walmart store there has been charged with voluntary manslaughter.
Alameda County District Attorney Nancy E. O’Malley announced Sept. 2 that she had brought the felony charges against officer Jason Fletcher. If convicted, he would face up to 11 years in prison. Fletcher is the first cop in Alameda County to be charged in an on-duty shooting in more than a decade.
The cop fired a Taser at Taylor and then shot him dead when the 33-year-old Black father of three didn’t obey his command to drop a baseball bat he was holding. Taylor’s family has said he was in the throes of a mental health crisis.
“Mr. Taylor was struggling to remain standing as he pointed the bat at the ground,” the charges say, and “posed no threat of imminent deadly force or serious bodily injury to defendant Fletcher or anyone else in the store.”
“From the time Officer Fletcher entered the store to the time he shot and killed Mr. Taylor, less than 40 seconds elapsed,” the DA said. The Walmart was crowded with shoppers at the time.
Addie Kitchen, Taylor’s grandmother, who joined his mother, Sharon Taylor, to help lead the four-month fight to have the cop publicly identified, arrested and charged, told this Militant worker-correspondent in a telephone discussion, “We will continue to protest” to see that justice is won.
Several disciplined protests in downtown San Leandro at police headquarters and at the Walmart store over the course of several months led to the charges.
There was little media attention after the killing was first reported. But the massive protests all across the country that followed the cop killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis breathed new life into the fight.
“It’s good the charges were made,” Walmart worker Rosa-Lynn Lovett told me. “And good the protests that won it were peaceful, not tearing up stores. The stores are needed for people trying to make a living who are working there. People go there to buy things they need.”
Ariel Buckingham, a cashier at the Walmart where Taylor was killed who joined in pressing the DA to make an arrest, said, “It’s good if a huge outcry actually got him charged.”
“This is a victory in the fight to push back against police officers acting as judge, jury and executioner,” Joel Britton, Socialist Workers Party candidate for U.S. Congress in the 13th District, which includes San Leandro, said in a letter published in the Sept. 10 San Leandro Times. “Police violence is aimed at intimidating and punishing working people and falls most heavily on African Americans like Taylor.”
Britton participated in several protests against Taylor’s killing and got word out about the fight broadly through his campaign.