A dashcam video released Wednesday shows a Florida police officer blasting five shots at a man out of the camera’s frame, resulting in his death.
Miami Gardens police said they feared for their lives because Lavall Hall, who suffered from mental illness, was wielding a broomstick.
The incident took place one cold mid-February morning when Hall’s mother, Catherine Daniels, called police to help calm her son down, who suffered from both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
Daniels made sure to note her son’s condition to the officers, but once they arrived on the scene, the situation quickly escalated out of control.
Accounts from the night vary; Miami Gardens police officers Peter Ehrlich and Eddo Trimino claim Hall, 25, was wielding a broomstick and assaulted the officers, who were later were treated for wounds. The officers than attempted to taser Hall, which proved ineffective.
The video catches glimpses of Hall running with a broomstick in hand as the officers attempted to communicate with him.
After giving a brief chase, Officer Trimino grew confrontational and can clearly be heard screaming threats in Hall’s direction.
“Get on the fucking ground or you’re dead. Get on the ground or you’re dead. Get on the ground, get on the ground,” Trimino yelled.
Within seconds, he fired five shots at Hall, two of which struck him in the arm and chest, which resulted in his death.
Witnesses to the scene gave a slightly different testimony saying Hall was unarmed at the time of the shooting.
“When I look, he ain’t have nothing in his hand,” Hall’s next-door neighbor Tyrone Bennett told WLRN. “He had on boxers and a undershirt.”
Gregorio Marmolejo, another resident of the neighborhood, said he saw Hall’s body lying in a bloody heap, but did not see a broom nearby.
Daniels’ wife, Marsha Brown, claims Hall left the broom in front of the family’s home before the incident with the police occurred.
“I was outraged, furious, devastated and very emotional. They killed him, murdered him,” said Melissa Edwards, the mother of Hall’s 8-year-old daughter Aariaya, told the Miami Herald.
Hall’s family has since filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city and former Police Chief Stephen Johnson seeking over $20 million in damages.
“We filed the suit because something had to be done,’’attorney Judd Rosen, of Goldberg and Rosen said in an interview with the Herald. “The family needs some justice.’’
Although similar instances of police being caught on camera executing citizens, including the recent viral video of South Carolina Officer Michael Thomas Slager, lead many to cite a racial bias, Hall’s family as well a the local NAACP chapter view this more as a lapse in police knowledge of how to handle the mentally ill.
Over a decade ago, after several confrontations with mentally unstable subjects went awry, the court-created Criminal Mental Health Project established crisis intervention teams (CIT) to help address these sensitive situations.
CIT trainings are taken on a voluntary basis, with only about 10 percent of the Miami Police force certified in such tactics.
While mental health certainly played a factor in Hall’s untimely, the history of racial tension between police and citizens of Miami Gardens – a northern municipality in Miami-Dade County – cannot be ignored.
Since becoming incorporated just over a decade ago, the city of 109,000 has been plagued with gang violence, drug crime and shooting sprees earning it the nickname “Murder Gardens.”
The predominately black population has developed a deeply seeded mistrust of the majority white and latino police force after the continued use of invasive, and in some cases illegal tactics.
Earl Sampson, 28, has been stopped and questioned by Miami Gardens police officers close to 300 hundred times in four years and has never been convicted anything more serious than a petty possession of marijuana, according to a 2013 article from the Herald.
Many of these searches came at his place of work, a local convenience store where he has been seized and charged with trespassing multiple times on the job.
The cases of Sampson and Hall are just a snapshot into the trials faced by the area’s residents. As tensions continue to escalate, it is becoming more apparent how important cultural awareness education is in order to prevent the unnecessary deaths of citizens at the hands of police.