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New Video and Documents Show How Police Fired 55 Shots at a Black Rapper in Less than 4 Seconds

Willie McCoy was passed out in his car in a Taco Bell drive-thru. His February 2019 killing sparked national outrage.
August 6, 2020, 9:00pm
Screenshot from body-cam footage of Feb 9, 2019, shooting of Willie McCoy, released by Vallejo police department Aug. 6, 2020.

The Vallejo Police Department released a trove of videos, photos, and documents Wednesday that shed more light on the 2019 police killing of Willie McCoy, the young Black man who died when six cops fired 55 rounds at his car in a Taco Bell drive-thru in less than four seconds.

Vallejo police responded to a 911 call from a worker at the Taco Bell on Feb. 9, 2019, saying that an unresponsive person was stopped in the drive-thru and not moving even after people knocked on his windows. Officers surrounded the vehicle with their guns drawn since McCoy, a 20-year-old aspiring rapper, was passed out inside with a gun in his lap, according to body-worn camera footage released Wednesday. 

The cops had first mulled going into the car to grab the gun and drag McCoy out, but they discovered it was locked, according to footage released Wednesday. In the meantime, they boxed the car in with their cruisers, since it was in Drive.

Then McCoy stirred inside, appearing to scratch his shoulder and lean forward. Officers screamed at him to keep his hands visible, but they began shooting within seconds of that command. After they had fired dozens of rounds at the car — shattering the windshield and windows — they repeatedly demanded that McCoy show his hands, because he was apparently still moving inside. He didn’t respond, so officers dragged his limp, bloodied body out of the vehicle so they could handcuff him. Then they performed first aid.

Police photographs show that McCoy’s lifeless body was later cloaked with a yellow plastic sheet in the Taco Bell parking lot. He suffered 38 gunshot wounds. The police department has said that he’d reached for his weapon.

McCoy’s family sued the city of Vallejo, which has seen 18 fatal police shootings over the past decade, last year. 

Officers there have also been accused of celebrating those fatal shootings with barbecues and a visual cue — bending a tip of their badge — according to Open Vallejo, a news outlet, according to the Mercury News. The Vallejo Police Department is investigating allegations related to those disturbing rituals. 

More than a year after McCoy’s shooting and the resulting nationwide outrage, Vallejo Police Chief Shawny Williams recommended the firing of one officer, Ryan McMahon, according to internal documents revealed Wednesday. McMahon is still employed with the department, according to the Associated Press, but he was placed on paid administrative leave.

The expert hired last year to review the incident — a retired police officer — determined the use of deadly force was reasonable in a report released in June. McMahon, too, was listed as “exonerated” of unreasonable force in an internal investigation report from January.

But the Solano County District Attorney’s Office announced last week that a special prosecutor had been hired to further investigate the shooting, according to the San Jose Mercury News. Wednesday’s documents, however, were released after requests from the American Civil Liberties Union and Open Vallejo, according to the Mercury News. 

The other officers involved in the incident were Bryan Glick, Anthony Romero-Cano, Collin Eaton, Jordon Patzer, and Mark Thompson. 

Recommended termination

McMahon was at the scene and telling Taco Bell employees to stay inside the building when he heard gunfire and ran toward McCoy’s vehicle. He fired one shot at the windshield, since he believed McCoy was shooting too, and feared for his life and the lives of his fellow officers.

But his actions actually endangered other officers, since he had run with his weapon “out and extended” while another officer was in his “cone of fire,” Williams wrote in a notice to McMahon in late March. He had also not communicated with his partner, Glick.

When interviewed by a Vallejo police sergeant about the incident last November, McMahon said he did not initially see Glick when he started running. He said he knew he was further in front of him but might be further off to the side. He said that Glick walked in front of him after he had fired his gun, and that he quickly repositioned himself. 

McMahon had been involved in another shooting death before McCoy, according to the San Jose Mercury News. In 2018, he fatally shot Ronell Foster, who he stopped because he didn’t have a bicycle light. Vallejo police have said a “violent physical struggle” ensued and that Foster grabbed McMahon’s flashlight, but Foster was shot in the back and the back of the head, according to the Guardian. 

Cover: Screenshot from body-cam footage of Feb 9, 2019, shooting of Willie McCoy, released by Vallejo police department Aug. 6, 2020.