The family of a man shot to death in his car by six Bay Area police officers last weekend want answers — and justice.
Though police have not formally identified the man, his friends and family say he is Willie McCoy, a 21-year-old rapper who went by the stage name “Willie Bo.” McCoy had just been woken up from sleeping in his car in a Taco Bell drive-thru when the police opened fire.
David Harrison, McCoy’s manager and cousin, told NBC News that the killing “seems like an execution.”
“It looks like my baby cousin was executed by a firing squad,” he said, later adding, "It doesn't take six officers to pump bullets through a car that's not going anywhere.”
On Saturday night, officers with the Vallejo Police Department received a call from employees at a local Taco Bell complaining that someone was “slumped over in the driver’s seat” in the fast-food restaurant’s drive-thru, according to a police press release. When police arrived, they found the driver “unresponsive” and noticed that he had a handgun in his lap.
They called for backup, but the driver woke up as the backup officers started arranging themselves at the scene. When cops commanded him to put his hands up, the driver instead reached for his gun, police say.
“Fearing for their safety, six officers fired their duty weapons at the driver,” police said in their statement. These officers fired “multiple rounds” within four seconds.
The man was pronounced dead at the scene.
“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,” Marc McCoy, Willie McCoy’s older brother, told the Guardian.
Has this happened before?
This isn’t the first time that police in Vallejo — a waterfront city of about 120,000 located 40 minutes north of San Francisco — have been accused of brutality. In March 2017, a Vallejo police officer was filmed sitting on top of a man and repeatedly hitting him. In August 2018, three officers were filmed hitting a suspect who was lying on the ground multiple times with a flashlight. Last year, the East Bay Express found that the Vallejo Police Department pays more per officer in judgements and settlements in civil rights cases than nearby departments.
Other police departments in the region have also faced criticism for shooting black men who’d just woken up.
The family of a homeless man who’d been shot to death by four police officers filed a wrongful death lawsuit earlier this month, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Police say they found the man, 32-year-old Joshua Pawlik, unconscious and holding a gun; when he did not drop the gun as he woke up, the police opened fire. The lawsuit, however, contends that Pawlik was not touching the gun at all.
In 2016, the city of Oakland reached a $1.2 million settlement with the family of Demouria Hogg, who was shot to death by police after being found unconscious in his parked car. Hogg had a gun in the front seat, and was shot right after he woke up.
The officer who shot him said she saw him reach for the gun.
What happens next?
During a Vallejo City Council meeting Tuesday night, McCoy’s friends and family demanded more information about what happened, according to the Mercury News. Police say they are still reviewing the footage and investigating the incident, but a woman who said she was McCoy’s girlfriend wanted body camera footage from the shooting.
“My boyfriend was shot by the police. I just want him to get justice — this hurts me so much,” she reportedly said. “My baby was an angel and they took him from me.”
Cover: A view of Vallejo, Calif., Tuesday, May 6, 2008. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)