SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A former police officer already in prison for one fatal shooting in an affluent San Francisco suburb will not face criminal charges in the second killing of a homeless black man who asked the officer to kill him. A 30-second confrontation, the prosecutor said Friday.
Contra Costa County District Attorney Diana Becton said she will not seek to prosecute former Danville officer Andrew Hall in the death of Tyrell Wilson, who was holding a knife at the time of their March 2021 confrontation.
Hall is already serving a six-year prison sentence for the fatal shooting of 32-year-old Laudemer Arboleda in 2018 during a slow-speed police chase. Hall was convicted of assault with a firearm last year for shooting at Arboled’s vehicle as it drove by. Arboleda, who was unarmed and mentally ill, was hit by nine bullets as he fled from police.
Becton said there was beyond a reasonable doubt that Hall, 33, acted unlawfully when he killed Wilson last year while responding to reports of a person throwing rocks from a freeway overpass.
She called it a “difficult and challenging case” and that she and her legal team “spent a significant amount of time and resources evaluating the evidence before reaching this conclusion.”
“As a community, we must find ways to de-escalate law enforcement encounters where the use of force leads to tragic consequences,” she said in a statement. “The loss of Tyrell Wilson’s life weighs heavily on our community and I extend my deepest condolences to the Wilson family.”
Hall’s lawyer, Mike Rains, praised Becton for what he said was a “lengthy, serious and considered look at the facts” which he said ultimately revealed a “tragic situation” in which Hall had to defend himself from a man who was approaching a knife.
“Deputy Hall attempted to avoid the need to use deadly force” by repeatedly telling Wilson to drop the blade, Rains said in a statement.
“I understand the times we’re in and I commend (Becton) for standing up to that pressure and making the right decision,” Rains said.
Becton was criticized for taking two years to investigate Arboleda’s death, leaving Hall on duty long enough to be involved in the second fatal shooting. Becton filed the charges one day after a jury convicted Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin of killing George Floyd.
If she had charged Hall more quickly in the earlier shooting, “this never would have happened,” said John Burris, a lawyer for Wilson’s family. “This young man would not be killed.
Critics also questioned whether race played a role: Hall is white, Wilson is black, and Arboleda is of Filipino descent. Danville is a city of multimillion-dollar homes and a predominantly white population.
Video taken by a nearby motorist showed Hall standing feet apart and facing Wilson before the officer appeared to move toward Wilson as Wilson backed away. The motorist’s video does not appear to show Wilson making any sudden movements toward Hall.
Becton’s office said that before the shooting, Wilson told Hall not to touch him, then removed a pocketknife from his jacket and held it against his right thigh with the blade facing forward. He took five steps away from Hall and said twice, “Touch me and see what happens.”
Hall drew his gun, pointed it at Wilson and told him to drop the knife three times. Wilson then took two to three steps toward Hall, raised the knife to his chest, looked up at the sky and said, “Kill me,” according to a report from Becton’s office.
Hall took about three steps back and shot Wilson once in the head, firing just 32 seconds after he first spoke to Wilson. Wilson died in hospital two days later.
Police have previously released still photos of Wilson holding a bag in his left hand and a pocketknife in his right.
A jury could reasonably conclude that Hall was in imminent danger, especially if Wilson was “potentially engaging in ‘suicide by cop,'” Becton’s report concluded.
Burris stated in his opinion that “there is sufficient evidence to justify prosecution here”.
Wilson suffered from schizophrenia and Burris said he was clearly mentally challenged when Hall approached him.
“That should be a clue that something is going on with the young man,” Burris said.
“But the officer didn’t back down and reconsider. He became very aggressive,” Burris said. “The officer created this confrontation.
He said the family could ask the attorney general or U.S. attorney to review the case, noting that California law requires police killings to be not only reasonable but necessary. Wilson’s death does not appear necessary under the circumstances, Burris said.
Becton charged Hall with manslaughter and assault in Arboled’s death a month after he fatally shot Wilson, but a jury deadlocked on the voluntary manslaughter count in convicting him of assault.
Hall is serving his six-year sentence at nearby San Quentin State Prison.
The Contra Costa Sheriff’s Office provides police officers to Danville under contract, and the county has paid more than $9 million to the families of the two slain men to settle civil rights lawsuits. The sheriff’s office cleared Hall of wrongdoing in Arboleda’s death after its own nine-month investigation.
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