A 20-year-old black man who was shot dead by police in Vallejo, California, earlier this month after he was found sleeping in his car with a gun in his lap was struck by about 25 bullets, his family’s lawyer said this week.
“Overkill is an understatement,” attorney Melissa Nold told NBC News about the shooting of Willie McCoy, a Bay Area rapper.
Nold, who claimed to have examined McCoy’s body, said the bullets struck the man’s face, throat, shoulders, chest and arm. Part of McCoy’s ear was also blown off.
A coroner’s report has yet to be released.
McCoy’s family has accused the Vallejo Police Department of racial profiling during the deadly encounter.
“Police [in Vallejo] 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,” David Harrison, McCoy’s cousin, told The Guardian.
According to Vallejo police, employees at a local Taco Bell called 911 at about 10:30 p.m. on Feb. 9 after spotting McCoy “slumped over” behind the wheel of his car, which still had its engine running, in the eatery’s drive-thru.
McCoy’s family said the rapper, whose stage name was Willie Bo, had been in the recording studio in the days leading up to his fatal encounter with police and had likely been so exhausted that he’d fallen asleep while waiting to order food.
Two officers arrived on the scene and noticed a handgun on McCoy’s lap. The officers “decided to hold their position and did not attempt to wake the driver. Instead, they decided to wait for additional officers to arrive on scene and ensured that people in the parking lot were safe and did not approach the vehicle,” Vallejo police said in a statement.
Police claimed McCoy’s gun, which was allegedly “fully loaded,” was later discovered to have been reported stolen in Oregon. It’s unclear how McCoy obtained the weapon.
After the arrival of four more officers at the Taco Bell, McCoy “suddenly” moved, police said, adding that the officers then gave him “several commands to put his hands up” but McCoy “moved his hands downward for the firearm.”
“Fearing for their safety, six officers fired their duty weapons” multiple times for a duration of about four seconds, the police statement said. The exact number of shots fired was not revealed.
McCoy was pronounced dead at the scene.
McCoy’s family suggested that the officers may have “startled” McCoy awake. They’ve also questioned why deadly force was used instead of a more “peaceful” solution.
The officers said they considered opening McCoy’s door to retrieve the gun from his lap before he woke up, but ditched that plan when they realized the car’s doors were locked.
McCoy’s family said the front passenger side window was broken in an earlier incident and had a sheet of plastic covering it, which could have been removed.
“There was no attempt to try to work out a peaceful solution,” Marc McCoy, Willie McCoy’s older brother, 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.”
The Vallejo Police Department said the officers involved in the shooting were placed on administrative leave, pending an investigation.
The department has been dogged by multiple allegations of police brutality and racial profiling. A black Marine veteran accused a Vallejo officer last month of assaulting him for using his cell phone to film the arrest of his cousin. Last June, the department made a $17,500 settlement in a racial profiling case in which a man claimed he was falsely arrested and subjected to excessive force by two police officers.