Family of man killed by police in Walmart angered by lack of notification, calls for investigation

Evgen_Prozhyrko/iStockBy CHRISTINA CARREGA, ABC NEWS

(SAN LEANDRO, Calif.) — The grandmother of a bat-wielding man, who was shocked by two stun guns, and fatally shot by police officers inside a Walmart, is still waiting for notification from authorities to find out what happened to her grandson.

Steven Taylor was seen on cellphone video holding a green bat in what a 911 caller described as threatening inside of a Walmart in San Leandro, California, on April 18 as he was encountered by a police officer. Two of the videos captured by bystanders ended with Taylor bleeding to death in front of several frantic shoppers.

A departmental investigation was launched shortly after the shooting, according to a San Leandro Police Department spokesman.

The police department issued statements about the shooting on their social media page on April 19. The department’s police chief posted a video about the incident on April 20, refuting some bystanders’ accounts.

But, Taylor’s family said they have not been notified about Taylor being shot or his death prior to the social media postings.

“I started seeing things on Facebook and heard a report on the news. I wasn’t sure if it was about him,” said Addie Kitchen, Taylor’s grandmother.

Kitchen, 78, said she called the police department three times and the Alameda County Coroner’s Bureau after seeing the social media post about the shooting.

It wasn’t until the following afternoon that Taylor’s mother was contacted by the coroner to confirm he died.

Police did not identify Taylor publicly until Tuesday.

“I’m angry. I’m upset. I still don’t know what happened. No one has called us to say anything … I still haven’t heard from anyone,” said Kitchen who says she refuses to watch any of the videos of the shooting.

Kitchen retained attorney S. Lee Merritt who has represented the families of victims of alleged police brutality. Merritt says that Taylor’s siblings nor the mothers of his children were notified about the shooting.

The San Leandro Police Department released the two responding officers’ body camera footage and a separate bystander’s cellphone video on Wednesday evening. Request for comment from San Leandro Police Department Chief Jeff Tudor was not received.

“We know that this incident has garnered much attention in our community and that’s why we are releasing this video now to provide as much information to our community as this investigation process continues,” said Tudor in the community briefing video.

An unidentified man called 911 to report that a man was allegedly attempting to steal merchandise in the store while holding a bat and threatening to hit an associate and customers with it, according to the police video.

The first unidentified officer responded around 3:12 p.m. and asked Taylor to drop the bat, police said.

Taylor, a father of three, was seen on cellphone video and on the officer’s body camera allegedly refusing to drop the bat and becoming confrontational.

Taylor, 33, was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHA) since he was a preteen, Kitchen told ABC News on Thursday.

“I never had to discipline Steven, just talking to him you can get his attention,” said Kitchen, who raised Taylor and his two brothers. “When he is off his medication in school, the principal would take care of him.”

“You just have to talk to him,” Kitchen said about her grandson.

About 15 seconds into the verbal altercation, the officer drew his service weapon into his right hand and then his stun gun into his left hand, the videos show.

While holding both weapons simultaneously, the officer fired the stun gun, which shot electric prongs at Taylor. Police said the stun gun was ineffective since Taylor still did not drop the bat.

Throughout the escalating situation, a woman is heard on the cellphone videos repeatedly screaming “put it down.”

As the stun gun’s prongs pierce into Taylor’s body, the officer fired one bullet into Taylor’s chest, the videos show.

The sound of the metal bat hitting the store floor can be heard on the video, as it shows a second responding officer arriving on the scene.

Taylor’s back is turned to the officers, and he puts his hands in the air as the second unidentified officer fires his stun gun, in another bystander’s video.

“No more! Don’t shoot him no more!” another woman is heard screaming on the video.

The wounded man dropped face first to the ground as officers handcuffed him, the video shows.

“Officers called for paramedics and provided first aid until they arrived,” police said in a statement. “Despite life-saving measures, the man died from his injuries at the scene. Our thoughts are with the man’s family during this time.”

A preliminary autopsy report showed that Taylor died from “a single gunshot wound to the chest,” police said.

An internal investigation has been launched and the officers involved placed on administrative leave — standard protocol in any officer-involved shooting, police said

“The District Attorney’s Office’s Officer Involved Shooting Team is conducting an independent and parallel investigation into this incident,” said Alameda County Assistant District Attorney Teresa Drenick in an email to ABC News on Wednesday. “Because it’s an active investigation, I am not able to discuss any of the details.”

It’s unclear if the officers involved with Taylor’s death received training from San Leandro’s Community Assessment Transport Team (CATT), a mobile crisis team comprised of a behavioral health provider and an Emergency Medical Technician.

According to the San Leandro Police Department’s 2018 annual report: “Officers are limited in options when interacting with individuals in crisis. The CATT program will give officers additional options that may be better suited for those individuals. We anticipate the program will be in place by fall, 2019.”

Merritt also claimed that the second responding officer used excessive force when he fired his stun gun at Taylor who, at that point, was already wounded, he said.

The coroner released Taylor’s body to the family, but Merritt said they cannot properly grieve because of social distancing guidelines related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Only 10 family members can view his body inside the funeral home, Kitchen said.

“Steven had so many friends and hung out with so many people. He loved to dance and was in a singing group,” said Kitchen. “He always kept you laughing.”

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