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Steven Taylor family sues city, officers for wrongful death in Walmart shooting

A multi-million-dollar civil rights lawsuit was filed Friday by the family of a Black man killed by San Leandro police, attorneys for the man’s family announced Tuesday.

Steven Taylor was having a mental health crisis when former San Leandro police officer Jason Fletcher shot and killed him inside a Walmart on Hesperian Boulevard in April 2020, attorney S. Lee Merritt, who is representing the family, said Wednesday.

Fletcher is facing voluntary manslaughter charges in Taylor’s death. Another former officer is named is the suit: Officer Stefan Overton is also named in the suit for using a Taser on Taylor after Fletcher shot and Tased him, Merritt said.

San Leandro officials said the city intends to defend itself in the lawsuit, which it calls unnecessary and unwarranted. Merritt also represents the family of George Floyd. Taylor’s family is seeking in excess of $10 million.

Addie Kitchen, Steven Taylor’s grandmother and estate administrator, said in a statement.

“Our family has been devastated by the wrongful death of my grandson. Steven’s two children will always feel the impact of the brutality their father suffered and San Leandro citizens struggling with mental health deserve policies that protect the sanctity of life.”

Since Taylor’s death, San Leandro officials declared April 18, “Steven Taylor Day,” but Merritt said while that is good, policy changes must occur, and people must be held accountable.

City officials said Tuesday that changes have already occurred at the San Leandro Police Department with use-of-force policies and training. Also, community discussions have occurred around social equity and racial justice.

Police Chief Abdul Pridgen said in a statement:

“The death of Steven Taylor was a tragedy that has profoundly affected our Department and those we serve.”  

Pridgen added:

“I am committed to continuing the many changes we’ve already put in place to save the lives of those who need our help the most.”

Pridgen took over as chief following the fatal shooting.

Mayor Pauline Russo Cutter said in a statement:

“I continue to hear from residents about the great loss they feel in Mr. Taylor’s death, and the City Council has made it our priority to improve our policing practices, eliminate systemic racism, and promote social justice for everyone who lives in this community.” 

Cutter said:

“We will defend against this lawsuit, but we have learned from this tragic death and will never forget Steven Taylor and his lasting impact on San Leandro.” 

Merritt’s office is citing violations related to excessive force, “reasonable accommodations” as outlined in the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Merritt’s office expects the civil suit filed Friday to be stayed while the criminal case against Fletcher is decided.

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