An extensive report by a former police
apologist officer has surprisingly absolved California police officers of any wrongdoing in a police shooting, concluding that it was reasonable for multiple officers to open fire on a man who fell asleep in his car.
On Feb. 9, a Vallejo, Calif., Taco Bell employee called 911 and informed an operator that there was a man slumped over in his car in the fast-food restaurant’s drive-thru, according to The Guardian. Responding officers say they noticed a gun on 20-year-old Willie McCoy’s lap and decided not to move his car. After determining that the doors to the vehicle were locked, officials say the sleeping rapper, known as “Willie Bo,” woke up and would not comply with their verbal commands to put his hands up. According to a press release, when McCoy started moving his hands towards the gun on his lap, police fired multiple rounds into the car, killing McCoy.
“They killed him in his sleep,” said McCoy’s cousin, David Harrison, after the family was allowed to view the police footage. “He scratched his arm in his sleep…and they murdered him. There is no justification.”
After the shooting, the Vallejo city attorney spent hundreds of thousands of pennies on an investigation, hiring ex-cop and “consultant” David Blake for $8,000 to produce a 51-page report justifying the killing because of “chaos caused by the sounds of gunfire, debris, and weapons mounted lights reflecting off the shattered windshield.” Blake essentially concluded that the cops were wrong at every step, but only because they were frightened and incompetent and…you know how crazy it can get when all of your friends and coworkers are having target practice at someone who’s not shooting back, right?
The report notes that six officers fired a total of 55 shots. One officer (Colin Eaton) initially “believed” he fired four or five rounds before it was revealed he fired 14. One other officer fired 12 rounds and two others fired 13 each. Blake excuses this overkill by explaining that the cops showed restraint by not emptying their clips, which—and I swear he wrote this—“indicates a level of self-control.”
Blake also contends that officers gave McCoy ample time to comply with their commands, writing:
Officers gave loud verbal commands to McCoy to show his hands for approximately 3 seconds before the first round was fired…During the 3 seconds, McCoy wakes up, looks at officers and failed to comply with the lawful commands of the officers. Instead, McCoy’s behavior was the opposite of the intent of those commands.
“I opine the 55 rounds fired by 6 officers in ~3.5 seconds is reasonable based upon my training and experience as a range instructor as well as through applied human factors psychology,” Blake concluded, adding:
“While it is not possible to empirically validate after the fact, I opine it is more-likely-than-not that all officers involved in this shooting experienced a significant hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal response. It is unreasonable to think that a life or death situation such as this, which involved proximal gunfire would not create such a response.”
After reading the report, I understood the pseudoscience of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal response to mean that the officers were scared shitless; I also thought I knew what “opine” meant. But since it appeared no less than nine times in the investigative summary, I wanted to make sure that the Vallejo Police Department was using facts and logic to determine the outcome of a man’s death. I figured I was wrong; “opine” couldn’t mean what I thought it meant.
“What it says is there was never any real intention of trying to work out this situation to where my brother’s life would still be intact,” said Marc McCoy, Willie’s older brother, according to The Guardian.
The report cites legal precedent to explain the circumstances, a subject in which Blake is obviously an “expert,” having no law degree or legal training besides cop school. Curiously, Blake did not personally interview any of the witnesses, including the civilian witnesses. He only listened to interviews of the police officers involved, which were conducted by other police officers.
Coincidentally, Blake is the same consultant whose “expert analysis” (pdf) determined that Sacramento police officers did not violate any laws in the shooting of Stephon Clark. Ryan McMahon, one of the officers who fired at McCoy, is the subject of an ongoing police brutality lawsuit, The Guardian reports. Another cop who shot at McCoy had previously shot and killed an unarmed man.
McCoy’s family has hired an attorney who has an actual law degree and is demanding justice for the death of McCoy.
“Our community is so used to this type of violence,” said Willie’s brother.