Justice for Steven Taylor: What’s happening in San Leandro?

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Steven Demarco Taylor- photo from East Bay Citizen

On April 18, Steven Taylor, who was born and raised in San Leandro, was murdered by San Leandro Police at a Walmart store on Hesperian Blvd, in front of dozens of other Walmart guests. Taylor, who was a Black man, and also generally known to be both in a mental health crisis and homeless, was shot on the scene within a minute of officers first arriving on the scene, after first being tasered. In video footage released by SLPD, they claim that he was still charging toward the officer when he was shot, although he had been Tasered already and seemed to be stumbling. After being shot, he was tasered again (even as he was backing away) and was pinned down to the ground so the officers could handcuff him, even though was severely injured and bleeding. The officer who killed Mr. Taylor was the only person close to him at the time, and clearly could have made other choices that could have spared his life.

As a pastor in San Leandro, and a Korean American woman married to a Black man, the murder of Steven Taylor has radically impacted our family and also catalyzed our commitment to seeing change in the local community. It is both heartbreaking and angering to know that any time a Black person goes out, they are at risk of not returning home. My husband just got a shirt this week that says “How perfect does a Black man have to be before we mourn him?” and it is true. There is no margin for error, no space to have a “bad day.” Black bodies are seen as threatening and suspicious first, no matter what type of situation they are in or help they might need.

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Shirt image from Oaklandish

Moreover, this case fuels ongoing conversations about defunding the police. In a situation of mental health crisis, how different would the outcome have been if a social worker, mental health counselor, or somebody with thousands of hours of training could have been on the scene? How can we expect that having armed, uniformed officers coming in with guns drawn could help de-escalate the situation? Consider that people with mental illnesses are 16 times more likely to be killed by law enforcement, and a 911 call can feel like a death sentence for those in crisis, rather than a source of help.

In the aftermath of Taylor’s shooting, alongside the growing outrage nationally that grew after the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, residents of San Leandro have begun to mobilize towards longer term changes in the city and the police department. As relatively new residents here, my family has been learning a lot- about the city, our history, our police department, and local government.

Here are some notable things we are learning and experiencing:

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San Leandro Mayor, Pauline Cutter- Photo from East Bay Citizen

While this moment, both nationally and locally, presents a great opportunity for local municipalities to do some critical self-examination and make courageous and costly decisions towards change, San Leandro’s leadership continues to miss the mark.

Steven Taylor should still be alive. San Leandro must do better. The city must confront both is racist history and racist police department, and continue to work towards sustained change.

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If you’d like to demand Justice for Steven Taylor and support his family, here are a few concrete resources:

Co-Pastor @bethelcommunitysl | Director of Advocacy @fphayward | pastor, activist, writer | married to @eubanksme | co-author of @lentenlament | she/her

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