The California Attorney General’s office declined a request by San Leandro officials to launch an independent investigation in the fatal shooting by a San Leandro police officer last April of Steven Taylor, a 33-year-old black man, who was, at the time, experiencing a mental illness crisis.
State Attorney General Xavier Beccerra’s office notified the city this week that due to a lack of funding and staffing, along with the absence of a clear conflict of interest among those currently investing the April 18 shooting, his office would not pursue the matter.
The San Leandro Police Department and Alameda County District Attorney’s office is currently investigating the shooting that involved two police officers, one of which, shot Taylor at the Walmart store on Hesperian Boulevard, after receiving a call about a man waving a bat at employees and customers. Taylor later died from the gunshot wounds.
Last month, the San Leandro City Council directed its city manager to request for the attorney general to begin an independent investigation into the shooting. But in a letter to the city, the attorney general’s office suggested the scope of the investigation did not meet its requirements for an additional investigation by the state.
“It is more critical than ever to respond to heartfelt concerns about law enforcement expressed by our communities,” the letter begins. It adds, “Traditionally, the role of attorney general’s office in intervening in a local criminal investigation and prosecution is limited.”
The attorney general office, the letter continues, does not typically get involved in officer-involved shootings, “absent a conflict of interest, abuse of discretion, or other exceptional circumstances.”
The letter goes on to add the attorney general’s office is not aware of any such conflicts in the current investigations associated with the Taylor shooting.
Taylor’s death, which occurred roughly six weeks before the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis, has roiled San Leandro politics and community discourse like few issues in recent memory.
Two recent city council meetings have exceeded more than seven hours in length, due in large part, to a influx of public speakers providing comments of concern and outrage over Taylor’s death and the overall role of law enforcement in the city.
I think that’s wrong not to investigate his case.