A young California man fatally shot by police after they found him unresponsive in his car with a gun in his lap was hit about 25 times — with bullets striking the center of his face and throat and blowing off part of his ear, a lawyer for his family said.
Oakland attorney Melissa Nold, who said she examined the body of Willie McCoy, 20, last week, told NBC News that he also sustained injuries to his shoulders, chest and arm, during the Feb. 9 encounter with six officers.
“Overkill is an understatement,” Nold said of his wounds and the number of times he was struck.
A coroner’s report has not been released and Vallejo police have declined to comment further during an active investigation.
McCoy — a Bay Area rapper known by his stage name Willie Bo — had been in the recording studio in recent days, his family said. They believe he had gone to the Taco Bell for a bite to eat 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.
Nold also called into question the officers’ version of events in which they said the doors to McCoy’s Mercedes-Benz were locked when they first considered retrieving the gun from his lap before he woke up.
Even if the doors were locked, the front passenger’s side window was already broken and had a sheet of plastic covering it, which could have been removed, Nold said. Video of McCoy’s car being towed in the aftermath from the scene shows plastic over the open window and several bullet holes in the windshield.
Police were in the middle of blocking in McCoy’s car in the drive-thru so that he wouldn’t make any sudden movements, and when he woke up, officers said, they gave him “several commands to put his hands up.”
Rather than comply, police said, he “quickly moved his hands” down to the gun.
Six officers “fearing for their safety” opened fire in about four seconds, police added.
“Officers continued to yell commands at the driver and ultimately reached through the broken glass of the driver’s window to unlock the vehicle,” they said, before retrieving McCoy’s body to perform first aid. He died at the scene.
Nold said the situation could have been handled differently, especially since they recognized McCoy was not initially responsive.
“Suppose he was having a medical emergency and needed help. Their reaction wasn’t can we get this person safely out of the car,” Nold said.
“Even under the worst case scenario, you still have an obligation to try and avoid the use of deadly force,” she added.
Authorities said a fully loaded .40 caliber semiautomatic handgun with an extended magazine was recovered at the scene, and had been reported stolen out of Oregon.
David Klinger, a criminologist at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and former police officer, said the initial actions of police appeared to make sense in order to protect the public’s safety, but the number of officers who ultimately pulled their triggers is concerning — especially since the officers had time to formulate a plan.
“Unless there’s some really extraordinary explanation, too many bullets were fired by too many officers,” he said.