New graphic video of the point-blank shooting death of a 20-year-old California man by law enforcement has been released.

On Saturday, February 9th, Willie McCoy was fatally shot by cops while sitting in his car in a Taco Bell drive-thru lane in Vallejo.

A restaurant employee had called the authorities after noticing a man slumped over in his idle car. Officers found him asleep.

According to police, Willie had a handgun in his lap inside the silver Mercedes. 

In a statement, officials claimed Willie made a sudden move for his gun as he wakened from his slumber:

“The officers told the driver to keep his hands visible, however the driver quickly reached for the handgun on his lap. In fear for their own safety, the officers discharged their weapons at the driver. … This is our first time releasing video in this fashion and it is our hope tha twe can provide sufficient context for the community to understand the facts of this case.”

The firearm — which was loaded with an extended 14-round magazine — had purportedly been stolen in Oregon. Once collected, it was deemed functional.

All officers, including Ryan McMahon and Mark Thompson, have returned to duty.

Should they have been? McMahon was involved in another fatal shooting last year; in 2018, an excessive force complaint was filed against Thompson.

Willie’s death marks at least the third Bay area incident in recent years in which boys in blue fatally shot an armed man after trying to wake him.

As reported in February by the San Francisco Chronicle, in one of those cases, a homeless man’s family sued the city:

Last week, the family of a homeless man killed by Oakland police in 2018 sued the department for excessive use of force. Police said Joshua Pawlik was armed and sleeping between two houses when they arrived. They said they tried to wake Pawlik, and repeatedly told him to “get (his) hand off the gun.” Four police officers shot him.

“All I know is that the man was sleeping,” [civil rights attorney John Burris] said of Pawlik. “And he wound up dead and shot, and there’s no evidence by them that he pointed the weapon at them, or that he pointed the weapon at anyone.”

So what of Willie’s family? They’ve filed a wrongful-death claim against the city of Vallejo.

The young man’s cousin, Dave Harrison, believes the video — which is quite difficult to watch — bolsters their claim:

“I’m glad the video was released so everyone can see it. Willie was a sitting duck in that car. He was asleep.”

The Guardian asserted 5 points in support of the family’s claim:

The disturbing body-camera videos show the young rapper had moved his hand to scratch his shoulder before officers opened fire. The footage is consistent with key claims of McCoy’s family, who watched footage earlier this month and said the officers “executed” him while he was not alert or awake. The videos, released after significant pressure, show::

  • The officers did not try to wake McCoy up or talk to him after they spotted a gun in his lap, and instead pointed their firearms at his head directly outside the car as he slept for several minutes.
  • One officer said: “I’m going to pull him out and snatch his ass.”
  • The officers then realized the firearm did not have a magazine in it, noting to each other that if it was loaded, it would have a single bullet in it: “He’s only got one shot if he shoots.”
  • The officers then appeared to make a plan to fire at him, with one saying: “If he reaches for it, you know what to do.”
  • McCoy eventually started to move, scratching his shoulder and not yet appearing alert or saying anything to officers, and several seconds later, all six officers fired at him.

See the hard-to-watch footage of the shooting below. Beware: It’s not for everyone.

I want to hear from you: Was this shooting justified? Was it hasty? Excessive? I look forward to learning from your insight and — as for those of you in law enforcement — experience.

-Alex

 

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