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Police fired 55 shots at man in 3.5 seconds. Report finds it 'reasonable.'

NBC News logo NBC News 6/13/2019 Erik Ortiz

a man standing in front of a store: Image: Willie McCoy © Law Offices of John L. Burris Image: Willie McCoy

Six California police officers responding to a call about a man slumped unresponsive in his car, fired-off 55 shots at the man in 3.5 seconds, according to an independent use-of-force report ordered by the city of Vallejo.

The report's author concluded that the tactics used by the Vallejo Police Department officers on Willie McCoy, 20, were "reasonable based upon my training and experience as a range instructor as well as through applied human factors psychology."

David Blake, a police consultant and retired officer, also wrote in the report released this week that the use of deadly force was "objectively reasonable and necessary" given the circumstances of the situation.

Officers said they saw a handgun on McCoy's lap, and believed he was reaching for it when he suddenly woke up.

The death of McCoy, a Bay Area rapper, at a Taco Bell drive-thru on Feb. 9 in Vallejo set off demands by the community for police accountability and an independent investigation into the entire department's training and an alleged pattern of racial profiling.

City officials in April said they were inviting U.S. Department of Justice mediators to hear from residents and create a "community engagement plan." Some residents, however, say more needs to be done in their city of about 122,000 after McCoy became the 16th death involving Vallejo officers since 2011 — the highest rate of people shot by police per capita in Northern California. The majority of those killed have been black and Latino men.

The independent report was completed on May 17, almost two months after the release of officers' bodycam videos following pressure by McCoy's family to make them public. The exact number of bullets that each of the six officers fired was not previously known, but Blake's report found that Officer Ryan McMahon fired once, while Officer Colin Eaton fired 13 times, Officer Jordon Patzer fired 12 times, officers Bryan Glick and Anthony Romero-Cano fired 11 times each, and Officer Mark Thompson fired 7 times. It's unclear how many of those bullets struck McCoy, but family attorneys have said he was struck around 25 times. The six officers returned to duty three weeks after the shooting.

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Employees at the Taco Bell called police for a welfare check after they found McCoy unresponsive in his silver Mercedes in the drive-thru.

After officers arrived at the scene, they said they discovered the car was locked and in drive, and McCoy had a gun on his lap.

Police say McCoy's firearm was stolen, and his family says he may have had one for protection.

They devised a plan to block off McCoy's car inside the drive-thru to prevent any erratic movement if he woke up. Eventually, the officers did see McCoy moving and appearing to scratch his arm, the police bodycam video shows.McCoy then jerked up and appeared to reach down. Officers shouted, "Show me your hands!" and fired at him within a few seconds.

Police Chief Andrew Bidou has called the situation a "tragedy."In his 51-page report, Blake noted that he was provided with police reports, interviews given by the officers and the bodycam footage. The officers in their interviews said they were "scared" and fearful that McCoy was going to shoot at officers."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.

Related slideshow: Over-reaction or unavoidable shooting in Vallejo? (San Francisco Chronicle)

City Attorney Claudia Quintana said the report, which was made public this week, is separate from an investigation by the Solano County District Attorney's Office into the shooting.

"The death of Mr. McCoy is not the outcome that the City of Vallejo and our community desire," she said in a statement. "We understand how difficult this situation is for everyone involved. At the end of the day, we all want the same thing: for all persons to go home to their families, and we will continue working hard to identify those strategies that allow us to obtain desirable favorable outcomes to tough situations like the one addressed in the report."

But Melissa Nold, an attorney for McCoy's family, said Thursday that the report "continues the flawed belief that officers should be able to act on their irrational fear and unlawfully kill people."

She added that it was unreasonable that police "expected an untrained sleeping man to awaken from a deep slumber without moving around.

"She also said that such use-of-force reports are paid by cities and "are by no means independent or unbiased."

Blake was hired by Vallejo for up to $8,000 to review officers' use of force in McCoy's death. The Sacramento Police Department also hired him earlier this year in response to the officer-involved shooting of black man Stephon Clark in 2018. The two officers in the case were not charged in Clark's death following an investigation by Sacramento County prosecutors.Blake could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday.

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