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Referee upholds firing of former Vallejo police officer for shooting Willie McCoy

VALLEJO – A former Vallejo police officer who was fired in 2020 for endangering another officer during the 2019 shooting of Willie McCoy lost an appeal trying to get his job back with the city, according to documents released by the city Monday.

Ryan McMahon was the only official in charge of the Shooting of McCoywho was found unconscious behind the wheel of his car in a Taco Bell drive-thru on February 9, 2019. Six officers fired 55 shots at McCoy, including McMahon, who was the last to arrive and fired a single shot as he ran toward the scene behind Officer Bryan Glick, just before Glick stepped in front of his muzzle.

The Decision of 13 May by Referee Stephen Biersmith, released by the city, was heavily redacted because it referenced previous investigations into McMahon that were unrelated to the shooting of McCoy. Under California law, police personnel files are sealed with some exceptions, including investigations into police shootings.

Biersmith upheld then-Police Chief Shawny Williams' decision to fire McMahon for violating department policies, including safety guidelines and unsafe handling of weapons.

“It was unclear why [McMahon] “He did not inform the other officers of his location immediately upon his arrival,” Biersmith wrote. “This was not an unimportant consideration, as it was a recognized requirement before an officer in an ambush would fire his weapon.”

Williams' disciplinary letter “pointed to a 'pattern of poor decisions and unsafe behavior,'” Biersmith wrote, and was correct in noting that an investigation “included a safety element in which [McMahon’s] negligent action represented a disregard for his own safety and that of his colleagues.”

McMahon attempted to cast doubt on Williams' credibility, but the arbitrator concluded that was irrelevant. “Absent a safety concern or an illegal instruction, every employee has an independent obligation to consistently perform to the level expected of someone in his or her classification,” Biersmith wrote. The results of the investigation “supported the city's contention that he failed in both areas and warranted severe disciplinary action.”

McMahon's involvement in the shooting eventually led to the discovery of the Badge bending scandalin which officers bent the ends of their badges to mark shootings. Former police captain John Whitney claimed in a lawsuit When McMahon turned in his badge, department superiors noticed two curved spikes that represented McCoy and the 2018 shooting of Ronell Foster.

Whitney was later fired, which he said was in part because he wanted to hold the officers who participated in the practice accountable, and received compensation of $900,000 out of town.

The city lost a series of arbitration cases in which officials got their jobs back after Williams tried to fire them, including Lieutenant Herman RobinsonUnion leader Michael NicheliniAnd Detective Jarrett Tonnwho shot and killed Sean Monterrosa in 2020. McMahon was the only officer represented by the Vallejo Police Officers Association to lose an arbitration decision under Williams, who resigned in 2022.

While McMahon’s disciplinary history was redacted in the referee’s decision, some aspects of it revealed in court documents And leaked documents.

McMahon first became a police officer in 2010 when he was hired by the Sausalito Police Department. In 2012, he was investigated for conduct improperly while off duty, court records show. McMahon denied the allegations and the case was dismissed the following year without disciplinary action, court records show.

Then, in 2015, court records show, McMahon was investigated for an alleged policy violation of incivility to the public and conduct unbecoming an officer. McMahon left the agency before the investigation was completed and was hired by the Central Marin Police Authority. But Sausalito closed the investigation and acquitted him the following year, according to court records.

While working for Central Marin, McMahon was again investigated for alleged misconduct, this time for alleged disrespectful and discriminatory treatment and excessive use of force. Specifically, court records state that he was charged with excessive use of force for using his baton on a fleeing individual. McMahon was reportedly acquitted for that incident as well.

McMahon was hired by the Vallejo Police Department in July 2017. Within a year of joining the Vallejo Police Department, McMahon shot and killed Foster after attempting to stop Foster for riding a bicycle without headlights and pursuing him into a backyard.

An internal investigation into the incident cleared McMahon of policy violations, but then-interim police chief Joe Allio disagreed with the conclusions and ordered a reassessment of the shooting for violating the department's pursuit and body camera policies. McMahon was fired before a final determination was made as to whether his conduct in the shooting violated policy.

Three months after he shot Foster, McMahon was the subject of a counseling memorandum about two incidents in May 2018, according to records released by the Vallejo Sun.

In one case, McMahon was found to have demonstrated “poor judgment” when he left his post as a traffic cop. McMahon had left his post to join a chase across town, prompting the officer investigating the crash to “run for safety to avoid being hit” as McMahon sped into the scene, according to the advisory transcript.

The department reported five more incidents this year, including three in August 2018. McMahon was placed on a 90-day performance improvement plan, according to records.

In one case, McMahon responded to a report of stolen property by conducting “a detailed interview with the suspects outside [their] Miranda [rights] and while the suspects were being held in handcuffs,” according to the plan. McMahon conducted the interview in front of the victim and “the victim's very young child while the suspects were in a [nearby restaurant] which was open to the public at the time of the incident.”

After being fired by Vallejo, McMahon joined the Broadmoor Police Departmenta small agency in San Mateo County. He left the agency the following year after the Sun revealed the full extent of his disciplinary problems in Vallejo, according to a lawsuit he filed last year.

McMahon sues Vallejo He sought damages because confidential personnel information had been published by the Sun. He also sued Whitney, claiming that Whitney had disclosed details from his personnel file, which Whitney denied.

The trial stalled after McMahon's attorney Lenore Albert successfully argued that Whitney's attorney should be removed from the case because she had previously represented McMahon. Albert herself, who unsuccessfully applied for a court order to prevent the Vallejo Sun from reporting on the case, was suspended from practicing law in March until his license was revoked.

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