VALLEJO (CBS SF) — A retired peace officer with experience in training police officers in the use of force said the Vallejo police officers’ fatal shooting of rap artist Willie McCoy, 20, in a Taco Bell drive-thru in February was reasonable and in line with modern training and police practices, a city official said Monday.
City Attorney Claudia Quintana referred to a May 17 report by Dave Blake of Brentwood-based Blake Consulting. Quintana posted Blake’s report and a news release about it on Vallejo’s website Monday.
Quintana said the report details the legal background and the reasons behind Blake’s conclusions. But she said it is important to realize that there is a difference between what force is reasonable from a civil liability perspective and what outcome city officials and the community wanted.
“The death of Mr. McCoy is not the outcome that the City of Vallejo and our community desire,” Quintana said.
A letter by Blake to Assistant City Attorney Kelly Trujillo, said the review of the Feb. 9 fatal shooting focused on the constitutional aspects of the use of force as well as any human factor psychological aspects which might apply.
Blake said he reserved the right to add, change and delete any of his opinions based on any provision of more information not reviewed at the time his report was completed.
The report says six Vallejo police officers fired 55 rounds in 3.5 seconds at McCoy who was sitting in a silver Mercedes that was still in drive gear.
Blake said the officers had reasonable suspicion and/or probable cause to detain or arrest McCoy for offenses that included carrying a loaded firearm in public, DUI, possession of a firearm under the influence of a controlled substance and resisting, delaying or obstructing a peace officer.
One of the officers who looked inside the Mercedes-Benz as McCoy slept said he saw a gun in McCoy’s lap, and two other officers confirmed it, Blake said.
Video footage from various angles makes it clear McCoy sat up, moved both hands toward his lap and then moved his left arm downward, Blake said.
Officers were giving loud verbal commands as McCoy made movements forward in his seat three seconds before shots were fired, Blake said. McCoy’s eyes were open and he looked around at the officers before reaching toward the area of the gun. Videos from all body worn cameras show McCoy was fired upon three seconds after the first verbal command to show his hands, Blake said.
Just before the shots were fired, McCoy’s left arm movement indicates he was reaching down toward the floorboard, Blake said. According to Blake, the six officers had probable cause to believe
McCoy posed an immediate threat of death or serious injury to themselves and others, and the use of force was objectively reasonable and necessary based on the totality of circumstances.
Civil rights attorney John Burris, who represents McCoy’s family and plans to file a claim against the city of Vallejo, said in March that Vallejo police “failed to establish a plan of action to safely remove McCoy from the car and violated longstanding officer safety principles.”
Burris also said he does not understand why the Vallejo police officers refused to take a position of safety to resolve the incident without gunfire.
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