Vallejo, CA – The Vallejo police officers who fatally shot a 20-year-old rapper as he allegedly reached for a gun in a Taco Bell drive-thru last year were justified in using deadly force, according to a recent independent investigation report.
David Blake, a police consultant and retired law enforcement officer, was hired by the city of Vallejo to conduct an investigation into the officers’ use of deadly force during the Feb. 9, 2019 incident, NBC News reported.
Willie McCoy, who went by the name “Willie Bo,” was found slumped over in his silver Mercedes in the fast-food restaurant parking lot by an employee at approximately 10:30 p.m. that night, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
The Taco Bell worker called 911, and Vallejo police responded to the scene to try to make contact with McCoy.
They located the vehicle sitting in the entrance of the drive-thru, and spotted a handgun lying in the unresponsive male driver’s lap, police said in the bodycam footage release.
The officer who noticed the weapon alerted his partner, and covered McCoy with his duty weapon.
“There’ a gun in his lap,” he said. “See it?”
The officer noted that the door appeared to be open, and devised a plan to gain control of the weapon.
“I’m gonna pull him out and snatch his -ss,” he said, as his partner moved to the front of the suspect’s vehicle to cover him.
The officer initially believed that the magazine in McCoy’s handgun was not fully seated, and told other officers at the scene that the suspect would only have “one shot,” assuming a round was in the chamber.
Police later discovered that the fully-loaded gun was actually equipped with an extended magazine, but because it extended past the grip, it gave the same appearance as an unseated standard magazine.
“I’m gonna go in there, I’m gonna grab that gun,” another officer said. “If he reaches for it, you know what to do.”
The officers tried to remove the weapon from McCoy’s lap without disturbing him, but discovered that the car doors were locked, the video showed.
“Alright, car is locked, he is passed out. But the car is in drive. We need another unit,” one of the officers said over the radio.
The officers then began to pin McCoy’s vehicle in place by parking patrol vehicles in front of and behind it.
McCoy suddenly began to move, and reached his right arm up to his left shoulder, bodycam footage showed.
Officers then ordered him to show his hands, but McCoy bent forward at the waist and reached for the weapon, police said.
That’s when the officers opened fire through the windows of the suspect’s vehicle.
The officers pulled McCoy out of the vehicle and began delivering lifesaving aid, but he died at the scene.
Police later confirmed that the .40-caliber semiautomatic handgun in McCoy’s lap was fully operational, and that it had been reported as stolen in Oregon, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
McCoy’s family said that he probably just had the weapon for his own protection, according to NBC News.
Blake concluded that the six officers’ use of deadly force was “objectively reasonable and necessary,” NBC News reported.
“Officers are not required to wait until a weapon is pointed at them to take the necessary steps to save their own lives,” he wrote in the 51-page report.
The officers fired a total of 55 rounds during the 3.5 seconds that followed the initial gunshot, according to the report.
Officer Mark Thompson fired seven times, Officer Anthony Romero-Cano and Officer Bryan Glick both fired 11 rounds each, Officer Jordon Patzer fired 12 times, Officer Colin Eaton fired 13 times, and Officer Ryan McMahon fired a single round, according to NBC News.
McCoy was hit 38 times, The Guardian reported.
Vallejo Police Chief Shawny Williams recommended that Officer McMahon be fired after an internal investigation concluded he had discharged his duty weapon while another officer was in his “cone of fire,” according to The Mercury News.
Officer McMahon said he was arriving at the scene with his partner, Officer Glick, when he saw the other officers open fire, according to investigators.
He said he thought McCoy was the one who was shooting.
“I was like, ‘Oh s–t, he’s shooting at us,’” Officer McMahon told investigators, according to The Mercury News. “And I had a shot…I had a clear line at that point.”
Immediately after he fired his duty weapon, Officer Glick crossed in front of him, he said.
Investigators said that Officer McMahon should have been more aware of the situation, The Mercury News reported.
“[Officer McMahon] did not recognize that [Officer Glick] could potentially move into his field of fire, did not communicate with Officer Glick of his intention to join the forward line of fire, did not achieve a stable shooting platform and did not recognize that the target was being effectively engaged,” the internal affairs investigation read, according to the paper.
Officer McMahon is currently on administrative leave, and has been served with a “notice of intent to discipline with a recommendation of termination,” a Vallejo Police Department (VPD) spokesperson told The Mercury News on Wednesday.
Blake’s independent use-of-force investigation is also separate from the investigation being conducted by Solano County District Attorney Claudia Quintana’s office, according to NBC News.
McCoy’s family has filed a wrongful death claim against the city, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
One of the McCoy family’s attorneys, Melissa Nold, said that Blake’s report simply “continues the flawed belief that officers should be able to act on their irrational fear and unlawfully kill people,” NBC News reported.
Nold contended that it was unreasonable for police to think that McCoy would “awaken from a deep slumber without moving around,” NBC News reported.
McCoy’s brother, Marc McCoy, said in an interview with KGO last year that police were wrong to use deadly force against his brother.
Marc McCoy said that the only thing his brother was guilty of was being exhausted from all the touring he had been doing, KGO reported.
Marc, who admitted that McCoy had been arrested in the past, said the officers overreacted and should have expected McCoy to make sudden movements when he woke up.
“Then wake him up outta sleep!” Marc said. “Come on. If you wake up out your sleep, you’re gonna do any kinda movement or, you know, just to wake up or whatever. That can be a threatening movement just waking up to these scary police out here.”
Although police said they shot McCoy when they saw him reaching for the loaded gun in his lap, Marc said that the officers should have attempted to de-escalate the situation.
“There was no attempt to try to work out a peaceful solution,” he told The Guardian. “The police’s job is to arrest people who are breaking the law – not take the law into your own hands. You’re not judge, jury and executioner.”
“I’m outraged! This community is outraged!” McCoy’s cousin, David Harrison, told KGO. “He’s not robbing Taco Bell. He is in the drive-thru trying to get something to eat!”
Harrison alleged that the officers “profiled” and “targeted” McCoy.
“No one trusts the police in Vallejo,” he told The Guardian. “We are being targeted…Police have a campaign of executing young black men who fit a certain profile. Willie dressed the part. He represents hip-hop music. They are profiled.”
Harrison also posted a video to Facebook after the shooting, warning children in the neighborhood about the danger of law enforcement officers.
“Police is not your f–king friend,” he said in the video. “They’re not there to serve and protect. They here to control and patrol, man. They wanna control you.”
Harrison then rose to his feet, and blew mucus out of his nose onto the sidewalk, the video showed.
He urged young people to listen to their parents, and said they were trying to prevent them from being killed by police. He also told parents not to “provoke” their kids.
Marc said that the officers shot McCoy due to a lack of respect for black people, The Guardian reported.
“Police are trained to shoot first and hurt you first,” he declared. “They do not respect black people. Even when they have a person subdued and their life is not in danger, they continue to be blatantly physically disrespectful. That is just accepted in America.”
The family wants the officers involved in the altercation to be criminally charged, The Guardian reported.
“We cannot fathom why they would have to shoot him. This was senseless…shooting a man sleeping in his car,” Harrison railed. “We want to make sure this never happens again to another person.”
“It’s going to continue to happen until we make these mother–kers pay!” he said in the Facebook video. “They gotta pay for this s–t. This s–t ain’t free. Can’t just keep killin’ us in the street like this.”
“We at war,” he declared. “It’s these mother–kin’ pigs is your f–kin’ enemy!”
Many news outlets, such as NowThis News, posted blatantly false claims that McCoy was shot while he was sleeping. Other news outlets used true but misleading headlines that he was shot after he was found sleeping without mentioning that he was also shot after waking up and reaching for a stolen gun. Other news stations reported he was sleeping in his car without offering any timeline.