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Calif. officer charged with manslaughter after shooting bat-wielding man in Walmart

Police were called by a security guard when the man tried to leave the store with a tent and a baseball bat without paying

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By Cliff Pinckard

SAN LEANDRO, California — Prosecutors have charged a police officer with voluntary manslaughter after he shot and killed a man wielding a baseball bat inside a Walmart in April.

Jason Fletcher, an officer with the San Leandro Police Department, was charged Wednesday in Alameda County in the shooting death of Steven Demarco Taylor, 33, the Sacramento Bee reports.

“The decision to file the criminal complaint was made after an intensive investigation and thorough analysis of the evidence and the current law,” District Attorney Nancy O’Malley said in a news release, according to the Bee. “The work of police officers is critical to the health, safety and well-being of our communities. Their job is one of the most demanding in our society, especially in these current challenging times. They are sworn to uphold and enforce the laws.”

Police were called to the Walmart by a security guard on April 18 when Taylor tried to leave the store with a tent and a baseball bat without paying, NBC News reports. Taylor was in the store’s checkout area when Fletcher approached and tried to take the bat, according to NBC News.

Taylor backed away and refused to drop the bat, NBC News reports. The Associated Press reports that surveillance video shows Fletcher shot Taylor twice with his Taser. As Taylor struggled to remain standing, Fletcher shot him in the chest with his firearm just as another officer arrived in the store, prosecutors said.

Taylor died at the scene. Prosecutors say the entire incident took about 40 seconds, the Bee reports.

“Mr. Taylor was struggling to remain standing as he pointed the bat at the ground,” O’Malley said in the news release, according to the Bee. “Mr. Taylor posed no threat of imminent deadly force or serious bodily injury to defendant Fletcher or anyone else in the store. Defendant Fletcher shot Mr. Taylor in the chest just as backup Officer Overton arrived in the store.”

Taylor’s grandmother, Addie Kitchen, said her grandson was homeless and had issues with mental health, the AP reports.

San Leandro Police Chief Jeff Tudor said in a statement it was important to allow “the judicial process to take its course,” according to the AP.