A California city has reached a $4 million settlement with the family of a Black man who was fatally shot last year as he was having a mental health breakdown.
Officials from the city, Walnut Creek, confirmed this week that they had agreed to settle with the family of Miles Hall, 23, who was killed in June 2019 after police officers responded to multiple calls of a disturbance in his neighborhood.
“The events of that day were tragic and difficult for all involved — the Hall family, the Walnut Creek community and the police officers called to the scene,” the city, which is about 25 miles east of San Francisco, said in a statement. “While the city recognizes the continuing loss for the Hall family, it is the city’s sincere hope that settlement of this civil lawsuit will provide a step towards healing.”
John Burris, a lawyer in Oakland who represents the family, said Mr. Hall’s parents and relatives called the police that June afternoon for help with a young man struggling with mental illness. Mr. Hall’s family has said that he had a schizoaffective disorder.
“What they were trying to prevent from happening is exactly what happened,” Mr. Burris said. “They were trying to prevent their kid from being killed.”
The police received a series of calls from Mr. Hall’s mother, grandmother and neighbors beginning around 4:40 p.m. on June 2, 2019. Several of the callers said he was wielding a sharp metal pole and was behaving erratically, according to a statement from the Walnut Creek Police Department and 911 recordings.
The first caller was Mr. Hall’s grandmother, who said he was having “a mental health breakdown.”
“He just came into my room and threatened me,” his grandmother said, her voice shaking.
Mr. Hall’s mother, Taun Hall, told the 911 operator that her son was “being violent,” had broken a sliding glass window and was wielding a long metal pole.
“He’s threatening us,” she said. “He has mental health issues.”
Ms. Hall added, “I’m telling you now, he’s going to be aggressive to the police.”
When officers arrived in the area, they spotted Mr. Hall walking with a crowbar toward a resident, the police said.
The officers told him to drop the bar and Mr. Hall began running toward them, ignoring their commands to stop, according to the department. One officer fired several rounds of bean bags at Mr. Hall, the department said.
Mr. Hall was struck by at least three rounds but continued to run toward them, the police said.
Video footage shows that the officers then shot Mr. Hall with their firearms as he tried to run past them.
Mr. Hall was taken to a hospital, where he died from the injuries, the police said.
The killing is another example of the police’s failure to respond appropriately to calls about people in mental health crises, Mr. Burris said.
“Many mentally impaired people seeking help are killed because of the police’s inability or unwillingness to de-escalate a situation,” he said.
Mr. Burris said an officer who knew Mr. Hall well and had worked with people with mental illness had been on her way to the scene. But instead of waiting for her to arrive so she could help calm him down, officers approached him aggressively, weapons drawn, Mr. Burris said.
In the statement released by Walnut Creek officials, Noah Blechman, the city’s litigation counsel, said the city settled with the family because officials “recognize that protracted litigation is not in the best interest of anyone involved.”
The city’s statement did not admit fault by any of the officers who responded or other city employees involved in the incident.
After the shooting, the Walnut Creek police released a 20-minute video that included 911 audio recordings of that day and footage of the confrontation between officers and Mr. Hall.
Lt. Tracie Reese, a spokeswoman for the Police Department, said in the video that the officers had responded to eight previous calls involving Mr. Hall since 2015. Those calls included mental health evaluations, petty thefts and two episodes of threats toward relatives and neighbors, she said.
“The majority of these incidents were handled as mental health issues and not criminally prosecuted,” Lieutenant Reese said.
At a news conference in front of the Hall family’s home on Monday, Mr. Hall’s parents said they called the police that day for help.
“Miles lost his life that day,” Ms. Hall told reporters. “He had goals. He had plans.”
“We want to have people who are trained to come and take care of our children and take care of our loved ones with compassion and care — not with guns,” she added.
Mr. Hall’s father, Scott Hall, said that “all we care about from the day Miles died and until the day we die is having a better system in place.”
After his death, the family created the Miles Hall Foundation to push for changes in how law enforcement responds to people with mental health challenges, according to the organization’s website.
Mr. Burris said money from the settlement would go to the foundation.
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