WALNUT CREEK (CBS SF) — The family of Miles Hall, a 23-year-old black man fatally shot by Walnut Creek police during a mental health crisis, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit alleging his civil rights were violated, family members announced Thursday.
“We’ve exhausted all of our efforts,” Scott Hall, Miles Hall’s father, said at a news conference in Oakland. “Now it’s time for us to change how we’re dealing with them and go for a little more aggressive approach.”
“We gave them a chance, but they didn’t want it,” he said.
The decedent’s family called for help June 2, as he was running around the neighborhood, behaving erratically and carrying a long pointed pry bar that police have described as a weapon. Neighbors have said that Miles called it “a gift from the Lord.”
When officers arrived on scene, they called Miles over to them. He ran in their direction, prompting them to order him to stop, which he did for a moment before changing directions in what his family has called an attempt to run “past” them.
One officer fired several less-lethal “bean bag” rounds as Miles approached at a run, but Miles did not stop and other officers opened fire, fatally wounding the man. The killing, and its immediate aftermath, were captured from a number of angles on video that was edited and released on social media by the police at http://youtube.com/watch?v=214IU1D6N6U.
“When police came he began to run, and he ran in a way like he was in a football field and trying to avoid tacklers,” said civil rights attorney John Burris, who is representing the Hall family in their suit against the city.
“He wasn’t creating a confrontation,” Burris said. “They could have created time, they could have created distance, but they didn’t.”
Burris says that the officers were equipped with Tasers, but they were not deployed. Some of the officers had crisis intervention training, and a specialist in the Police Department had been notified that Miles was in crisis, but somehow all those safeguards failed.
Moreover, the family had done extensive outreach with the Walnut Creek Police Department prior to this encounter so that if they ever had to call for help with their son’s mental illness, it would not end in bloodshed.
“I did everything that as a family we could do,” Taun Hall, Miles’ mother, said.
“We are betrayed by a system that failed us, that we had no other option (but) to use.”
“What else are we supposed to do?” Taun Hall asked. “We have no other options but to call the police.”
Burris and his clients say they want other police departments in California to look at this case as a cautionary tale and take steps to avoid similar outcomes when responding to mental health crises.
He alleges that Miles’ First, Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated. He’s seeking damages for the decedent’s family through a jury trial in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
Walnut Creek City Attorney Steve Mattas issued a statement Wednesday saying the city had not yet been served with the lawsuit or had an opportunity to thoroughly review it.
“Based on the preliminary feedback the City has received from the District Attorney’s office and the City’s internal review to date, including review of video and audio of the incident and interviews, the City believes the officers’ actions were justified under the dangerous and dynamic circumstances they faced, and that the involved officers did not violate any policies,” Mattas said.
Friends of the Hall family scheduled a protest Thursday evening at Walnut Creek City Hall, 1666 N. Main St., starting at 5 p.m.
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