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Officer involved in killing of California rapper was part of prior fatal shooting

Vallejo police added that all six of the officers involved in the shooting of Willie McCoy are expected to be back to "full duty" within the next week.

One of the six California officers who fired their weapons multiple times on a young rapper who had fallen asleep in a car with a gun on his lap was involved in another fatal shooting that drew scrutiny last year.

The latest details in the Feb. 9 shooting death of Willie McCoy, a 20-year-old Bay Area rapper, has raised fresh questions about the Vallejo Police Department and its use of force given the number of officer-involved shootings over the past three years.

The six officers involved in McCoy's death were identified Wednesday as: Collin Eaton, Bryan Glick, Jordon Patzer, Anthony Romero-Cano, Mark Thompson and Ryan McMahon.

McMahon was involved in a fatal incident Feb. 13, 2018, when he encountered Ronell Foster, 32, a father of two.

Authorities said Foster was part of a domestic dispute call, and in the course of an investigation, he was approached by officers while riding his bicycle downtown. He then began running, police said, and McMahon caught up with him and they got into a "violent physical struggle."

Police said McMahon tried to use his Taser, but it was "ineffective," and the suspect grabbed the officer's metal flashlight and began "presenting it in a threatening manner." McMahon shot Foster "several times in the back and the back of his head," according to a civil lawsuit filed against the city and the police department last March.

The lawsuit, which is ongoing, disputes that Foster was threatening, and said eyewitness reports indicate he wasn't armed before he was killed. In an answer to the complaint, attorneys for Vallejo denied the allegations and said the officer involved followed policies and procedures.

Vallejo, a city of more than 122,000 with a police force of about 100 officers, has seen eight cases since January 2017 in which officers fired their weapons — more than any police force in Solano County and neighboring Contra Costa County, according to the Vallejo Times-Herald. In addition, five of the department's officers have been involved in at least two shootings since 2016.

"There's a seeming failure to hold officers accountable, and it creates this environment that regardless of what you do and how you do it, you won't be disciplined," said Oakland civil rights attorney John Burris, who is representing McCoy's family and whose firm has filed at least six cases involving Vallejo police, including Foster's.

Burris has demanded that bodycam footage be released in Foster's shooting.

He said that for the same officer to now be involved in a second shooting death is a larger concern about "whether or not any restraints have been placed on him."

McCoy, who went by the stage name Willie Bo, had been in the recording studio and touring in the days before the shooting, his family said. They believe he had gone to the Taco Bell hungry and tired, and was so exhausted that he fell asleep while waiting in the drive-thru.

Employees called police at about 10:30 p.m. when they saw him slumped behind the wheel of the car with the engine running, Vallejo police said in a statement last week.

Police said McCoy woke up as they were trying to box his car in so he wouldn't suddenly move, and that he failed to listen to their commands. It's unclear how many bullets were fired within the four seconds of shooting, but another attorney for the family said she counted about 25 bullet wounds to McCoy's body, including to his face, throat and chest.

Image: Willie McCoy, right, with his cousin, David Harrison.
Willie McCoy, right, with his cousin, David Harrison.Courtesy of David Harrison

Police bodycam footage and other documents have not been made public. Vallejo police declined to comment further Thursday, while the Vallejo Police Officers' Association said in a statement that bodycam video only tells part of the story and does not capture the "totality of the situation with all the stimuli that the human eye and brain can see and process."

The officers' union also said it is not the one that puts people in these dangerous situations where "they have guns, fail to follow commands, fail to stop when ordered to do so and so on," and that it is "unreasonable to believe police officers have the skills to shoot someone in the arm or shoot the gun out of their hand. This is real life, not television."

Vallejo police confirmed Friday that all six of the officers involved in the McCoy shooting are expected to be back to "full duty" within the next week.

One of those officers, Thompson, had also been named in an excessive force complaint filed last year by a 49-year-old man who said he suffered a broken nose, a black eye and cuts to his body during a 2017 arrest. Another officer who was seen in bodycam footage grabbing the man left the department in October after being named in multiple force complaints, according to the Times-Herald.

A 2017 Pew Research Center survey found that almost 75 percent of police officers in the United States say they have never fired their service weapon while on duty outside of required training.

"When you have someone who does it twice in at least a year, and you have other fatal shootings in your department, it raises questions about the leadership and their willingness to hold these officers accountable," Burris said.