San Leandro: Mayor takes heat for saying man killed by police ‘passed away’

San Leandro Mayor Pauline Russo Cutter.

As San Leandro remains stunned by the shooting of 33-year-old Steven Taylor by police  inside a Walmart store last Saturday afternoon, a statement by the mayor on Monday night, is attracting additional criticism after it failed to mention the decedent’s name. In addition, the prepared statement read at the beginning of Monday night’s council meeting said Taylor had “passed away.”

San Leandro beat“Like so many of you, my heart aches for the loss of life in our community this weekend. The outcome of​ this incident was tragic,” San Leandro Mayor Pauline Russo Cutter said.  “I offer heartfelt condolences to the ​friends, family and loved ones of the man who passed away.”

A number of public speakers were quick to notice the omission of Taylor’s name and the description of him passing away. “Don’t even bother offering your condolences for Steven Taylor, who you didn’t even name. Who didn’t pass away as the speaker said. Who was executed in a time when he needed support the most,” said a speaker who was not identified in the livestream.

“We all saw that video and it was horrible,” said Mike Katz-Lacabe, a San Leandro resident and frequent critic of the police department.  “He was not passing away. That’s a passive voice used to take away responsibility for what happened. That fact is he was shot and killed by San Leandro Police.”

Others also admonished Cutter for her statement. “I think you did a disservice to carefully use the term “pass away” at the beginning when you offered condolences,” San Leandro resident Richard Mellor said, “It’s a bit of a sneaky way of dealing with that, in my opinion. He was shot by the police. I don’t expect you to come out raising Cain, but to use the term “pass away” was a bit disingenuous of you.”

The city appeared to realize its error. The mayor’s statement was posted to the city’s web site, and now includes Taylor’s name, while removing the phrase, “passed way.”

Coincidentally, several public speakers were prepared to address an item previously scheduled for Monday night’s meeting on the San Leandro Police Department’s request to fund additional surveillance cameras in the public space. Last Saturday’s shooting provided them with additional arguments against the proposed expenditure.

“I urge you to not merely table the issue of [surveillance cameras], but to actually just throw it away,” said Cynthia Chandler, a San Leandro resident. “We need to make sure that we’re investing our resources wisely in our community. That we are not wasting resources on policing when the police have just shown themselves to react punitively and not with humanity to people in crisis.”

City staff, however, pulled the item from the agenda on Monday night. It will return to a unspecified future council meeting, the city clerk said.

Meanwhile, the aftermath of the fatal shooting of Taylor is attracting the attention of local and national police accountability activists. An attorney representing Taylor’s family questioned whether San Leandro police officers were justified in using excessive force.

Cell phone video showed Taylor, who had a history of mental health issues, holding a baseball bat as two police officers confronted him inside the Walmart store on Hesperian Boulevard. The attorney for Taylor’s family said it appeared police used a Taser after shooting him.

The city, police department, and Alameda County District Attorney’s office is investigating the incident, Cutter said on Monday night.

“I ask for your patience. I understand this incident has incited strong emotions,” Cutter said to the public. “There is also a great deal of conflicting information out there. I want answers to these questions like everyone does because, before reaching conclusions, we need to determine the facts.”