SAN LEANDRO, Calif. - The San Leandro city council this week proclaimed April 18 as Steven Taylor and Sanctity of Life Day in honor of the 33-year-old Black man who was killed in a Walmart by police for waving a bat and scaring customers inside the store.
The proclamation, passed on Tuesday, is part of the city’s ongoing efforts to pursue racial justice and social equity in San Leandro, the city said in a statement. The proclamation was spearheaded by City Councilman Fred Simon.
"We were all in awe," said Addie Kitchen, Taylor's grandmother. "I mean San Leandro at one time was one of the most racist cities in America."
She said she was "hoping and praying" that this day in honor of her grandson is "not lip service. I'm assuming they mean it."
But she said the day is about more than Taylor, a San Leandro High School graduate, was fatally shot by a former officer of the San Leandro Police Department at the Walmart on Hesperian Boulevard on April 18, 2020. He was waving a bat and his grandmother said he suffered from mental illness.
"I'm hoping that people will understand that when you're going through a mental health crisis, the answer is not to murder," Kitchen said. "It's not OK. We need mental health services. There should be some way to contact a mental health counselor before the police show up. Especially for people of color. Not just recognition for Steven, but for all people in San Leandro."
Former officer Jason Fletcher was charged with voluntary manslaughter, entered a not guilty plea and was released on a $200,000 bond in September. Prosecutors said he could have done more to de-escalate the situation. The Alameda County District Attorney also said Fletcher did not wait for backup to arrive and instead grabbed the bat from Taylor, shot him with a Taser then shot him in the chest with his firearm, all in less than 40 seconds. Fletcher was among the first in California prosecuted under new state law that narrows the conditions in which fatal force can be used.
Fletcher retired in November 2020, according to the city.
Since Taylor's death, the city and the police department said they have been working to update policies and implement practices and trainings to address excessive uses of force in policing. However, the more robust mental health unit that San Leandro wanted to launch is not yet up and running.
In October 2020, a county- and state-funded mobile crisis unit called CATT started a soft rollout in San Leandro with one mobile team in October 2020.
However, the program's full rollout has not been launched because of pandemic-related delays including the hiring and training of employees and van fleet availability, said city spokesman Paul Sanftner. He said the program's full rollout is expected in June, with three mobile teams operating seven days per week "to assist San Leandro's high volume of mental health calls for service." Each van has one clinician and one EMT.
"Proclaiming a day for Steven Taylor will promote the ongoing process of healing and understanding as we focus on the ongoing work of dismantling systemic racism," said Mayor Pauline Cutter. "We are committed to the belief that every member of this community, including people of color, are valued and essential to promoting human rights and social justice for all."
Despite the proclamation and promises, the city has still not produced SB 1421police transparency records on Taylor's death, which would provide the public a glimpse into the police narrative and supervisor findings regarding the officer behavior of what happened that day.
KTVU has repeatedly asked for these records, including on Wednesday.
In an email from December 2020, the city manager's office said that the records into the officer-involved shooting "will continue to be withheld at this time," citing the charges the DA filed three months prio.
In light of these charges, the city said it would hold onto the records until there is a verdict in the case or a plea of guilty or no contest is entered.
Kitchen would very much like these police reports to see the light of day.
And she wants people to remember what happened to her grandson because "my wish is that this never happens again."
KTVU's Henry Lee contributed to this report. This story was updated on Feb. 19 to reflect San Leandro's status on its mobile crisis unit rollout.