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'It seems like an execution': Officers open fire on man asleep in car

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Image: Willie McCoy was fatally shot by California police officers on Feb.
Willie McCoy was fatally shot by Vallejo, California, police on Feb. 9, 2019. -
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Courtesy of David Harrison
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The family of a young Bay Area rapper who was killed when police officers opened fire after he had fallen asleep in his car is demanding the release of police bodycam footage and questioning whether deadly force was justified.

Police in Vallejo, California, said in a news release that six officers shot "multiple rounds" at Willie McCoy, 20, in the span of four seconds during an incident Saturday night in a Taco Bell parking lot. It's unclear how many bullets struck McCoy, but his family said they believe at least 20 may have hit his car based on the number of holes that witnesses counted at the scene.

"It seems like an execution," McCoy's cousin and manager, David Harrison, said Wednesday. "It looks like my baby cousin was executed by a firing squad."

Willie McCoy was fatally shot by Vallejo, California, police on Feb. 9, 2019.
Willie McCoy was fatally shot by Vallejo, California, police on Feb. 9, 2019.Courtesy of David Harrison

The Vallejo Police Department said it is working with the Solano County District Attorney's Office to investigate the shooting — the latest in a department that in recent years has been criticized for excessive use of force and the subject of civil rights complaints.

In a statement, Vallejo Police Chief Andrew Bidou said a review of the shooting is in its early stages, although "any loss of life is a tragedy." The department did not identify McCoy in its statement.

Officials also declined further comment about any plans to release video from the incident and questions regarding police protocol. The department's police union did not immediately respond to an email Wednesday.

Harrison, 48, said he's not happy about a lack of information that has come out about his cousin's death and is awaiting the results of an autopsy and toxicology report.

"It doesn't take six officers to pump bullets through a car that's not going anywhere," Harrison said.

Vallejo police said two patrol officers were first called to the Taco Bell after 10:30 p.m., when employees called about a driver slumped over in a car at the drive-thru.

Upon arrival, officers said they noticed a handgun in the driver's lap and called for backup.

"The two officers decided to hold their position and did not attempt to wake the driver," police said.

The officers discussed trying to remove the gun from the driver, but found his door locked. They also noticed the car was actually in drive, so additional units helped to position a marked patrol car in front of McCoy's car "to prevent forward or erratic movement," police said.

As a second car was being placed behind McCoy's car to prevent him from making sudden movements, he woke up.

Police said he was given "several commands" to put his hands up, but he did not comply and appeared to "quickly" move his hands downward to the firearm.

The officers began "fearing for their safety," and fired their weapons. They continued to yell commands at the driver and then reached through a broken window to unlock his door and begin lifesaving efforts. McCoy was pronounced dead at the scene.

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

Harrison said he has questions about where the officers were positioned when they shot his cousin and whether they saw him reach for a gun. A preliminary investigation found a fully loaded .40 caliber semiautomatic handgun with an extended magazine, which had been reported stolen out of Oregon, authorities said.

Harrison said the officers could have been more strategic and remained behind the car if they feared for their lives since they didn't know how startled he would become.

"I don't think he even had time to react," Harrison added. "If you're just waking up from sleep, you don't know what you have around you and who's talking to you."

Harrison said McCoy — known by his stage name Willie Bo — had been in the recording studio in recent days and was on tour with his group, FBG. He had also been splitting time between family in Vallejo and Oakland. On the night he was killed, Harrison added, he may have gone to the Taco Bell for a bite to eat and was so exhausted that he fell asleep.

He said he didn't know McCoy to own a firearm.

Lawmakers in California have pursued legislation that would set rules for when police can use deadly force and instead seek nonlethal alternatives to deescalate a situation — coming after another high-profile shooting last year of Stephon Clark, a black Sacramento man who police later confirmed was unarmed. Law enforcement groups, however, argue that officers make split-second decisions in potentially deadly situations, and that lethal force may need to be an option.

Police in Vallejo, a bedroom community north of San Francisco with a racially diverse population, have been under scrutiny in the past over officers' actions.

Last August, the police departmentdefended the use of force after video showed officers holding down a man and striking him outside of a restaurant.

In January, a police officer was seen tackling and handcuffing a black Marine veteran in a video that went viral. That officer was placed on leave.

The department has paid more per officer in civil rights cases than other local departments, the East Bay Express reported last year.

Harrison said his family is pained thinking about McCoy's final moments and his likely bewilderment when police came upon him.

McCoy, the second youngest of five siblings, lost his parents to cancer at a young age and was raised by his cousins and a sister. He used music as an outlet to rap about family ties and the inequities in life.

"He was always talking about being able to escape in his music because a lot of experience living in the Bay Area is police brutality and racial profiling," Harrison said. "It's tragic that Willie didn't escape it himself."