In fatal shooting of mentally ill man, officer convicted

On Tuesday, a California police officer was found guilty of assault with firearm in the fatal shooting of an unarmed mentally-ill man in 2018. The victim was driving away from San Francisco police officers when he was struck nine times.

In fatal shooting of mentally ill man, officer convicted

The family's attorney called it a "major leap forward" in holding law enforcement responsible.

After two days of deliberation, the jury returned a split verdict against Officer Andrew Hall. He now faces up to 17 year imprisonment. They all agreed that Hall was guilty on the felony charge for wrongfully firing his gun during the 33-year-old's death.

The jury was unable to reach a verdict on a second, more serious charge of voluntary manslaughter. According to the Contra Costa County District Attorney's Office, Hall's sentencing will take place on Jan. 14.

This was the first case in which a Contra Costa County police officer was arrested in an on-duty shooting. It is also part of a larger push by more prosecutors for punishment of police misconduct following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

"Today's guilty verdict holds Andrew Hall accountable for his excessive force in the fatal shooting Laudemer Arboleda," Diana Becton, District Attorney, stated in a statement. His actions were not only criminal, but also tarnished his badge and damaged the reputation of all the hard-working officers who serve our community.

Becton was criticized for taking more than two years to review the case before he filed charges on April 21, 2021. A day after the conviction of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for killing Floyd, Becton was charged.

Six weeks ago, Hall, who was white, had shot and killed Tyrell Wilson, a Black homeless person whose family claimed was suffering from paranoia and depression. Investigations into the shooting of Wilson are ongoing.

Two fatal shootings by the same officer in two years have brought to light what criminal justice activists called a case of delayed justice with its devastating consequences. After a nine-month investigation into Arboleda's killing, the Contra Costa Sheriff's Office had cleared Hall.

John Burris, a civil rights lawyer representing Arboleda in a separate civil suit, stated that the assault conviction provided some justice for the family, but left them disappointed.

"They did not acknowledge that Arboleda was murdered by the police. They believed he should be charged with murder and not manslaughter," Burris said, but he felt that the verdict was a step forward.

Burris said that it sends a signal to other officers that they can be prosecuted, and can be convicted. He has a long list of high-profile cases involving police violence including Rodney King and Oscar Grant.

Burris stated that "it's a major leap forward in looking at the holding police officers responsible." This was very important. It was a George Floyd ramification. Perhaps. It's also a drumbeat of the past 30 year, from Rodney King to today.

During Hall's three week trial, defense and prosecution attorneys presented opposing narratives. They alternately asked the jury to sympathize either with the officer's need for split-second decisions, or the victim who was charged with not stopping police.

After a resident called 911 to report that Arboleda was knocking at doors and lingering in front of homes in Danville's cul-de-sac, the events took place on November 3, 2018. Officers arrived to see Arboleda getting into his car and driving away.

Officers were led by Arboleda on a slow-speed, 9-minute chase through Danville. Hall did not participate in the initial pursuit, but stopped at an intersection to stop Arboleda from driving. According to police video, Hall can be seen stepping into Arboleda’s path and firing a series of shots through the windshield and passenger side windows.

Prosecutors claimed Hall used excessive, unreasonable, and unnecessary force. In opening remarks, Colleen Gleason, a prosecutor, presented dashboard footage and bodycam footage of Hall leaping out of his car and running up to Arboleda’s vehicle. She then fired repeatedly into the windows.

Gleason stated that the defendant had fired 10 shots at a slow-moving car of a mentally ill person. Arboleda was hit with nine bullets. He had been showing signs of depression and began to display worrying behavior months prior to his death. His family claims that Arboleda was committed involuntarily to a mental hospital for three weeks just months prior to his encounter with Hall. He was also given medication for schizophrenia and psychosis.

Hall's lawyers claimed that the officer was afraid for his safety and used bodycam footage from different angles in order to show that the right front tire on Arboleda’s car was pointed towards Hall at the beginning of the shooting, which indicated it was heading in his direction.

Harry Stern, the defense attorney, stressed the importance of quick decisions that Hall had to make in order to save his life.

Stern stated that the trial was about a two-second window. "That's the essence of this case."

Stern was unable to reach Stern immediately for comment following Tuesday's verdict.