San Leandro officer charged in death of Black man released on bail

Bay Area

DUBLIN (BCN) — A San Leandro police officer was taken into custody Tuesday following his arraignment on a voluntary manslaughter charge in the death of a man at a Walmart in April, according to jail records.

Officer Jason Fletcher was being held in Santa Rita Jail in Dublin Tuesday morning on $200,000 bail and appears to have bailed out, the records indicate.

Fletcher, 49, shot and killed Steven Taylor inside the Walmart at 15555 Hesperian Blvd. at 3:12 p.m. on April 18.

Taylor was apparently trying to steal a tent and a baseball bat from the store when a security guard called 911 and a confrontation between Taylor and Fletcher ensued.

Prosecutors said Taylor did not pose an imminent threat of great bodily injury or death to Fletcher or anyone else, while officers with the San Leandro Police Officers’ Association said the charges are legally deficient and politically motivated.

Michael Taylor holds a sign in memory of his brother Steven Taylor, who was shot and killed by San Leandro Police Officer Jason Fletcher, outside the East County Hall of Justice on Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020, in Dublin, Calif. A police officer facing manslaughter charges in the shooting death of a Black man inside a San Francisco Bay Area Walmart store was handcuffed and taken to jail following a court appearance Tuesday. Judge Barbara Dickinson denied a defense attorney request to allow San Leandro Police Officer Jason Fletcher to immediately post $200,000 bail, saying it was not the court’s practice to allow that. (Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group via AP)

Attorneys for Fletcher said he is innocent. They say he followed the new California law regarding police officers’ use of force exactly.

The new law requires that police officers use deadly force only when they “reasonably believe,” given all the circumstances, that it’s necessary to defend a human life.

“We will show that San Leandro Police Officer Jason Fletcher met the requirements of the new statute to de-escalate the situation before lethal force was used,” said attorney Michael Rains, who’s defending Fletcher. Rains is with Rains Lucia Stern St. Phalle and Silver.

But according to prosecutors, fewer than 40 seconds passed between when Fletcher entered the store and when he shot Taylor.

Prosecutors said that it is was unreasonable to conclude, after reviewing the evidence, that Taylor posed an imminent threat of great bodily injury or death to Fletcher or anyone else in the store. Rains said Fletcher did what was necessary under the new law.

Fletcher told Taylor to drop the bat four times, tried to take it away, which he resisted, used a Taser stun gun twice and then killed him, Fletcher’s attorneys said.

But prosecutors said Fletcher pulled out his gun at the same time as he tried to take the bat away from Taylor.

Taylor was able to maintain hold of the bat, video footage shows. Rains said Fletcher had no other choice but to shoot Taylor.

Officers in the San Leandro Police Officers’ Association also believe that de-escalation techniques were ineffective in this situation.

Fletcher has been an officer with the San Leandro Police Department for 15 years and an officer for 24 years, according to his attorneys. Fletcher’s next court date is Sept. 28.

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