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San Leandro police officer charged with Steven Taylor’s death appears in court

DUBLIN — The San Leandro police officer charged with voluntary manslaughter for the death of a Black man inside a Walmart store in April, was put into handcuffs Tuesday morning in the courtroom and taken to jail.

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Officer Jason Fletcher, 49, appeared at the East County Hall of Justice in Dublin and is accused of the death of Steven Taylor, 33, who was fatally shot April 18 at the Walmart store at 15555 Hesperian Blvd. in San Leandro. Alameda County Superior Court Judge Barbara Dickinson ordered Fletcher’s bail be set at $200,000, and Fletcher was immediately put in handcuffs and taken into custody by the sheriff’s office.

During the hearing Tuesday morning, Fletcher appeared in a dark gray suit and black face mask with his attorney, Michael Rains. Although Rains said his client was prepared to post bail immediately, Judge Dickinson denied the request, stating it was not the court’s practice. She instead set his bail and had him placed into custody. Fletcher will next appear in court later this month for a bail hearing.

Before Tuesday morning’s hearing, Fletcher was out of custody.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing guidelines, limited amounts of people were allowed inside the courtroom itself, but the hearing was shown remotely. Only two members of Taylor’s family were allowed inside the courtroom.

On Monday night at a protest, words were projected onto the front of the San Leandro Police Station headquarters that read “Convict Officer Fletcher” and “#Justice4StevenTaylor.” On Tuesday outside the East County Hall of Justice, supporters of Taylor also appeared to protest against Fletcher.

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Fletcher is the first law enforcement officer in the Bay Area to face charges in the death of a civilian in more than a decade — the last was BART Officer Johannes Mehserle, who shot and killed Oscar Grant on New Year’s Day 2009.

On April 18, Fletcher was the first officer to respond to a report by Walmart security guard of a possible shoplifter holding a baseball bat inside the store. Taylor had allegedly grabbed the aluminum bat and a tent before trying to leave without paying, according to court documents.

Moments later, Fletcher entered the store and found the security guard, who pointed out Taylor. Fletcher approached Taylor and tried to grab the bat, while Fletcher also pulled out his gun. When Taylor pulled away, Fletcher then drew his taser with his left hand and pointed it at Taylor, telling him to drop the bat. Fletcher tased Taylor twice. As Taylor was struggling to remain standing, the bat pointing to the ground, Fletcher shot Taylor in the chest, killing him.

Check back for updates. 

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