VALLEJO (KPIX) – A police academy instructor says officers were justified in using deadly force when they shot and killed a 21-year-old-man at a Taco Bell drive-thru last month.
On Friday, the department released the body camera video from all six officers involved in the shooting on February 9th.
The incident started with a 911-call saying a man was passed out behind the wheel at the Taco Bell drive-thru. When officers got there, they found the driver asleep in the car and saw he had a gun in his lap.
In the video you can hear the officers shouting, “Gun! Gun! Call it out. There’s a gun in his lap.”
Don Cameron, a police academy instructor, asks, “Why do you have a gun sitting on your lap in a fast food line?”
Cameron has more than 50 years of experience in law enforcement. He was once a police officer for Berkeley Police and BART Police and now is a police academy instructor.
He said based on the video, the officers did exactly what they were trained to do.
“They formulated a plan, they communicated with one another, they called other officers into the situation,” said Cameron.
For almost 4 minutes during the video, the officers talk about how they can get the gun away from the driver – who was later identified as 21-year-old Willie McCoy, a local rapper.
“I’m thinking we snatch him out. I don’t even want to give it a chance. I’m gonna go in there, I’m gonna grab that gun. And I’ll yank him out. If he reaches for it, Yup,” the officers say to each other on the video.
As police started to box the car in with their cruisers, McCoy started to move.
“Show me your hands! Show me your hands! Get your hands up!” the officers shout on the video.
“When he woke up, you can see in the video that he leans forward, his left elbow and shoulder dip towards his lap where the gun was at, he was reaching for the gun and at that point the officers shot him,” said Captain John Whitney with the Vallejo Police Department.
McCoy’s family held a press conference saying the officers only assumed he was reaching for the gun, and point out it was less than 4 seconds from the time he started moving to when officers opened fire.
“At no point in time did he lift his arm with a gun in it. No one sees that,” said John Burris the McCoy family attorney.
“It’s an execution by a firing squad,” said Dave Harrison who is McCoy’s cousin.
During that press conference the family criticized Vallejo police officers for not using a tactic called “time and distance.” It’s a new technique many Bay Area departments are moving toward to allow suspects extra time to respond to commands and officers a safe distance away.
Cameron says that technique does not apply to this situation because the suspect had a gun and officers can’t be far enough away to be safe from a bullet. Officers are only able to use that tactic when a suspect has a weapon like a knife.
Cameron also says based on the video, when the officers saw McCoy leaning down, they were forced to protect themselves.
“When somebody’s reaching for a gun, you don’t say, ok, wait a second and see what they’re going to do. You can’t do that. And if he woke up, saw the police and they’re yelling show me your hands, show me your hands, show me your hands, and he put his hands up. That’s a different story. There’s no shooting there,” says Cameron.
Vallejo Police released the video on Friday, but it could be a few more weeks before the city releases a final report on whether the shooting was justified.
Right now, all 6 officers involved are back on duty.