Death in San Leandro

San Leandro police’s shooting of Steven Taylor will test California’s new law for use of deadly force by police and could result in a statewide police accountability standard if the Attorney General steps into the case

Steven Taylor killed by police in San Leandro California, April 18, 2020.
Steven Taylor killed by police in San Leandro California, April 18, 2020.
Steven Taylor killed by police in San Leandro California, April 18, 2020. Photo Courtesy of S. Lee Merritt

Mental Illness Should Not Be A Death Sentence with Police

There is an increasing recognition that mental illness is a reason to spare people not from responsibility for their crimes but from the ultimate sanction of death. Simply put, a mental health crisis should not be a death sentence.

Gwen Woods with her son Mario Wood (inset)
Gwen Woods with her son Mario Wood (inset)
Gwen Woods and her son, Mario Woods (inset)
Courtesy: ABC News

California’s New Law

In California, a new law changed the standard for use of deadly force, effective January 1, 2020. The law is based in part, on the recognition that “individuals with physical, mental health, developmental, or intellectual disabilities are significantly more likely to experience greater levels of physical force during police interactions, as their disability may affect their ability to understand or comply with commands from peace officers. It is estimated that individuals with disabilities are involved in between one-third and one-half of all fatal encounters with law enforcement.”

Death in Alameda County

Between 2010 and 2015, at least 6 people died at the hands of police in Alameda County: Hernan Jaramillo, Roy Nelson, James Greer, Kayla Moore, Mark Bennett and Martin Harrison.

2018 Police Killings in Oakland

In January 2018, a BART police officer ran from the West Oakland BART station onto the street and shot Sahleem Tindle in the back. Tindle was unarmed at the time. O’Malley declined to bring any charges. In March 2020, however, a jury found BART liable for wrongful death and awarded Shaleem Tindle’s family $6.34 million dollars.

The Conflict of Interest

Our experience with DA O’Malley in Alameda County is a clear example of the conflict of interest that district attorneys experience when asked to hold police officers accountable. O’Malley’s investigation of Mr. Gomez’ death is not yet finished almost 9 months after police shot him on his mother’s front porch. Clearly, Mr. Gomez’ death and determining whether police acted justifiably or wrongly is not a priority for DA O’Malley.

A Test for California Law

Steven Taylor’s murder will be one of the first cases to “test” the enforcement of California’s new law for use of deadly force. If the Attorney General accepts the call, he could create a statewide standard for police accountability whenever deadly force is used.

CA Lawyer of the Year in Employment (2002). Champion of Justice. Civil Rights Warrior. Title IX Pioneer. Survivor of Ohio juvenile justice & foster care system.

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