Christian Hall: the case for the prosecution

Latest post in a series on Christian Hall

Full Monroe County D.A. press conference

You know that Gadfly is compelled by such recognizable “first contact” situations between police and young people.

One of the things he’ll miss most when he folds his wings is talking these situations out with you.

And you also know he’s been wishin’ for a Public Safety meeting where we could have some discussion of police training for these situations.

First above is Adam Toledo. March 29. All of 13. He’s got a gun. The officer is chasing him down an alley for a decent distance shouting at him to drop his gun. All of a sudden Toledo turns around. Bam! The officer kills him. He doesn’t have the gun. But legitimate, right? Fraction of a second decision. No fault by the officer.

Then there’s Ma’Khia Bryan. April 20. All of 16. She’s got a knife. When the officer arrives on the scene, she’s winding up to deliver. Bam! The officer kills her. Legitimate, right? Time only to react not think. The officer may have saved a life. No fault by the officer.

But then there’s Christian Hall. December 30. All of 19. Classic “suicide by cop.” For all intents and purposes, he had a real gun. The officers could tell no differently. This is a 90 minute episode. At the end Hall slow walks toward the officers. He ignores dozens of commands to drop the gun. Holding the gun, he raises his arms in an “I surrender” (touchdown!) pose. Bam! The officers kill him. They felt threatened. No fault?

Gadfly clutches on this one, which is why he said he found it so discussable.

But the Monroe County D.A. had no trouble exonerating the officers from any criminal wrongdoing.

And he tries the case right in front of us on the video (begin min. 45:30) of his March 30 press conference.

Be the jury. Let’s outline his case:

  • by law, deadly force only justified when officer perceives threat of death or serious bodily
  • was it reasonable for the officers to believe there was such an imminent threat?
  • hindsight cannot be used
  • Hall’s actions presented such imminent threat
  • Hall’s fault: his mental state and his desire to end his life
  • he had what legitimately appeared to be a real gun
  • Hall’s intent to commit “suicide by cop” indicated by the fake gun (chosen to be realistic), his 911 call, his prior visit to the scene, the fact that he didn’t jump from the bridge, prior social media, and etc.
  • told to put the gun down over 100 times
  • realistic gun consciously chosen to provoke deadly force
  • clear intent to end his life by intermediary
  • said hardly anything but did say to officers “make it quick”
  • had a record in juvenile court, probation officer was trying to find him as this incident unfolded
  • Hall brushed aside all efforts to de-escalate
  • provoked the use of deadly force by moving closer and taking the gun out
  • doesn’t even stop when shot at by officers
  • testament to/commendable of the officers’ patience that they didn’t shoot sooner
  • threat was imminent as soon as Hall put his hand on the gun, even before he pulled it out
  • “the imminent threat would have been very apparent the moment he had his hand on the gun”
  • law wouldn’t require them to wait as long as they did
  • “In the circumstances they were faced with, there was only one outcome, and he made sure what that outcome was going to be”
  • Hall ignored dozens and dozens of calls to drop the gun
  • “persistent and well established” techniques to de-escalate were used by officers
  • Hall escalated the threat, coming closer, “brandishing” the weapon
  • initial rounds fired at him did not persuade him to relinquish his weapon
  • officers: “clearly articulated commands”
  • he was holding the gun in his hand when shot
  • must not use hindsight when judging
  • officer believe in imminent risk therefore reasonable
  • Hall had means, opportunity, and motive
  • “he was a muscle-movement away from opening fire on the troopers”
  • “not a lot of time to react” — “it is the blink of an eye”
  • employed de-escalation for 90 minutes: assurance of no trouble, offer of physical comforts, willingness to talk
  • “troopers displayed much professional ism and empathy”
  • “I’m astounded that they let him get so close”
  • “It was clearly the last thing they wanted to do, to open fire on him”
  • professionalism. well-regarded de-escalation techniques, calm demeanor, non-threatening behavior
  • arranged trucks under bridge to break his fall should he jump
  • desired a “peaceful resolution” to protect the public and get Hall the mental health help he needed
  • officers were highly qualified, highly trained, experienced
  • no requirement for an officer to wait till a firearm is pointed directly at him before responding
  • case law would support the application of deadly force when Hall has his hand on the gun in his waistband
  • too far away to use taser
  • officers stuck with a situation that Hall placed them in
  • “the law would support the use of force by threatening to go for a gun let alone having it pointed directly at you”
  • human muscle memory reaction time: Hall played with the gun in the air and at some point kind of  moved the muzzle over in the direction of the officers before he raised it upward
  • no adequate time for officers to respond if wait till he pointed to gun at them
  • pointing the gun at the officers is “not the measure”

Ok, so Gadfly has done it again. Beat an issue to death.

But this is how he characteristically operates, trying to slow down and get everything on the table.

So chew on the the D.A.’s presentation for a while.

to be continued . . .


ref: Case Study of police shooting of Christian Hall ripe for good discussion
ref: Have you done your Christian Hall homework yet?
ref: Breaking down the YouTube video of the Christian Hall shooting by the Pa. State Police
ref: “CJ is responsible for his own death”
ref: Past time for the City to have “The Talk”
ref: The de-escalation strategy of the Christian Hall event
ref: Getting back to Christian Hall

Getting back to Christian Hall

Latest post in a series on Christian Hall

Full Monroe County D.A. press conference

ref: Case Study of police shooting of Christian Hall ripe for good discussion
ref: Have you done your Christian Hall homework yet?
ref: Breaking down the YouTube video of the Christian Hall shooting by the Pa. State Police
ref: “CJ is responsible for his own death”
ref: Past time for the City to have “The Talk”
ref: The de-escalation strategy of the Christian Hall event

Gadfly periodically amazes himself, amazes himself at the way he can beat a subject to death.

Take a look at his performance Breaking down the YouTube video of the Christian Hall shooting by the Pa. State Police.

Nothing like it in the annals of gadfly sleuthdom.

And the upshot was that even his slow-mo of slow-mo presentation couldn’t figure out The de-escalation strategy of the Christian Hall event.

Those posts must have blown his gasket, for he left the investigation of the Christian Hall incident completely up in the air a good three weeks ago.

In the meantime we have the shootings of Adam Toledo in Chicago, Ma’Khia Bryant in Columbus, Andrew Brown in Elizabeth City, Duante Wright in Brooklyn Center, and maybe I have missed some.

More on those other cases later, perhaps, but Gadfly wants to complete his walk-through on Christian Hall.

It’s been so long, those of you who want to think along with him may need to go back and review those past posts.

His is the “suicide by cop” case on Rt. 80 just north of us in Monroe County.

But Gadfly’d like to give you some more homework.

We have a video of the 73 min. D.A. press conference on March 30.

That 73 min. video breaks down in this way:

1:13:46 mins. (contains the 30-min. incident video that has been published separately and that we looked at)
Start at min. 5:07
D.A. introduction mins. 5:07-12:30
The 30-min. video runs from mins. 12:30-45:30
D.A. presentation mins. 45:30-1:00:15
Q & A with reporters mins. 1:00:15-1:13:46

For homework, Gadfly would like you to listen to the D.A. state his credential in this kind of case (approx mins 6-9) and his concluding presentation and Q&A (mins.45:30-1:13:46).

Do that, wouldya?, and we’ll come back and talk.

The de-escalation strategy of the Christian Hall event

Latest post in a series on Christian Hall

The Monroe Co. video of the Christian Hall event

ref: Case Study of police shooting of Christian Hall ripe for good discussion
ref: Have you done your Christian Hall homework yet?
ref: Breaking down the YouTube video of the Christian Hall shooting by the Pa. State Police
ref: “CJ is responsible for his own death”
ref: Past time for the City to have “The Talk”

Gadfly has said that the Christian Hall shooting is a case study ripe for discussion.

You can see from the post of Bob Davenport and the comments (especially by Michele Downing) to Bob’s and Gadfly’s previous posts on Hall that we go quickly to the politics and the ethics of this case.

But Gadfly would like to hold off as much as possible (it’s hard) on that discussion for a short while.

Right now his primary interest is “academic,” that is, he seeks to know something about de-escalation strategy and training from seeing it applied and in action here.

Apropos of our previous post on trends in policing around the country and many previous posts here on Gadfly about reimagining public safety, Gadfly wants to look closely at the de-escalation techniques employed here in as much an objective manner as possible (it’s hard).

In his video of the event, the Monroe Co. District Attorney obviously is aware of the national conversation about more mental health and related training for police and about police collaboration with mental health professionals by the way he foregrounds the credentials of the two negotiators in the Hall event.

Hall was met initially by two first responders whose basic training for such a call is not commented on. Then the interaction is turned over to two negotiators, one for about 15 minutes, the other for about an hour. The video highlights the apposite training of both these negotiators. These are the right men for the job at hand. Here’s what the video says about negotiator #2 (called in the video Trooper #4):

Now the video is 30 mins. long. The event spanned 90 mins. We do not have the full video record.

But what can we learn about de-escalation strategy from what we have?

To prepare, Gadfly broke the video down into its parts several days ago.

He did another run-through over the weekend, however, adding more detail (so anybody who read the previous post should do it again), and, most importantly, he numbered what he thought he could see as verbal strategies for de-escalating the Hall event.

Gadfly identified 18 verbal strategies aimed at de-escalating a potential suicide.

Here they are:

1) come off the bridge, and then we can talk
2) you are not in any trouble
3) we will do you no harm
4) tell us what your problem is
5) we will find someone to help you
6) we the police are here to help you
7) we can say with confidence our help will produce a positive outcome
8) calls Hall “CJ,” establishing personal connection (not clear if the negotiators gave their names)
9) we’re concerned about your physical comfort/state/welfare (cold? hungry? tired?)
10) we see your pain (empathy)
11) I’ll come out into the open from behind the safety of the police car to talk with you
12) advances on Hall behind ballistic shield
13) I’m asking you to put the gun down
14) what I’m asking you to do is easy to do
15) name something you need, and we’ll get it for you
16) whatever is bothering you is really not as big as you think it is
17) let me remind you of the impact of your death on people who love you
18) you really don’t want to commit suicide

Now go back to the break down post.

To Gadfly these verbal strategies are applied scattershot. He sees no purpose, pattern, coherence in their application. Should there be?

What are the strategies most applied? Seems like #2, #3, #13. Why these?

Are there any strategies that don’t seem appropriate? #16, #18? Should the officer be suggesting that the reason Hall contemplates suicide is no big deal? Will it be effective with a teen who employed elaborate planning (as was learned later) to suggest he really doesn’t want to do this?

Is the approach here keyed to research and experience with an armed, non-aggressive, mostly non-responsive teen in mental crisis/distress contemplating suicide by cop?

Here’s what the video stresses as the key strategy:

We have seen this so many times in these cases. The subject is at fault for disobeying a police order.

But what does research and experience tell us about the efficacy of such a full-frontal strategy with an armed, non-aggressive, mostly non-responsive teen contemplating suicide by cop?

40 times. 40 unsuccessful times.

All Gadfly can hear is Dr. Phil, his favorite philosopher, saying, “And how’s that workin’ out for ya?”

Gadfly must admit that he is troubled by what he has been told is expert police action in this case.

Now with all self-conscious humility, Gadfly recognizes that “academics” are guilty of over-thinking sometimes.

But till better instructed, he is profoundly disappointed if this is an example of the best that training has to offer.

It’s not just that the attempt at de-escalation failed here and a teen was killed. That will happen. Can’t win them all. And Hall was determined to die.

But Gadfly doesn’t understand what the de-escalation approach was here and on what it was based.

As always, he invites enlightenment.

“CJ is responsible for his own death”

Latest post in a series on Christian Hall

Bob Davenport is PA born and raised for 25 years. Now a retired railroad (but not the man at the throttle) Engineer, a CE graduate of Lehigh U,  a Catholic attending daily mass and praying for a better world without apparent success. An optimist.

ref: Case Study of police shooting of Christian Hall ripe for good discussion
ref: Have you done your Christian Hall homework yet?
ref: Breaking down the YouTube video of the Christian Hall shooting by the Pa. State Police


An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure; in this case the cure was lead.  I don’t blame the officers.  They have a right to protect themselves, and they were backed into a corner. The outcome was predictable once CJ selfishly made the decision to die. The ones who protest this action should sign up to be on call when the next incident occurs and give it a try to do better. Fortunately, CJ took nobody else with him, but the officers who shot will undoubtedly be affected.

What we need is cowboys as portrayed in the fifties who could shoot quickly and always manage to shoot a gun out of someone’s hands, unless the guy was evil, and then he died instantly. Those bullets must have been “smart” bullets.  Alas, this was real not scripted. CJ is responsible for his own death; he chose others to do it for him.

A prayer for all involved.

A similar incident occurred in Atlanta. The film clip is shorter but more intense:

An alternative solution may be to start shooting before police think they are in mortal danger, so they can aim for extremities rather than the core. Can you see a problem with that?

These situations are similar to those faced by the military under rules of engagement which were in effect during my time and place in Viet Nam. There were rules that were to be followed before you could use your weapon, which in my situation was kept in an arms room until I might need it. I remember my thoughts that one with a knife had to get very close before you “could” take an action. Indeed when do you get to make a him or me decision?

Drugs being involved is also a common situation. Who knows what impaired people are going to do. There was a situation that was called police brutality because an officer emptied his pistol into someone who attacked him. The answer was “he kept coming.” I heard the .45 cal pistol was used in the military because of the drug-fueled combatants in the Philippines. The round would stop an attacker even if his brain did not get the message that he was hurt. Who wants to be a police officer?

Spiderman and his web may be effective in certain situations, but reality usually precludes anything but a difficult life-and-death decision by a cop, often complicated by the desire of police to protect one another, which may initiate the trigger response even earlier.

If we could turn machine operators into mental health professionals and pay for their services, unemployment would disappear.


Breaking down the YouTube video of the Christian Hall shooting by the Pa. State Police

Latest post in a series on Christian Hall

ref: Case Study of police shooting of Christian Hall ripe for good discussion
ref: Have you done your Christian Hall homework yet?

There’s the sacred and the profane.

Gadfly has spent most of his Good Friday in profane activity.

The Monroe County D.A.’s office has provided us with the ability to just about witness the entire episode that ended with suicidal Christian Hall shot to death by the Pa. State police.

“Suicide by cop.”

You have seen Gadfly complain about our lack of knowledge of exactly what kind and how much training our police officers receive.

We are told they receive ample “de-escalation” training. But exactly what is de-escalation training? Don’t know.

Well, here’s a situation in which perhaps the best trained officer that we could expect on our State Police force was in charge of an event that needed to be de-escalated.

The officer is described as a 25-year veteran, with 15 years as a “PSP SERT negotiator,” as a “trained crisis negotiator,” who in this instance used “recognized crisis intervention and de-escalation strategies.”

Now de-escalation failed in this instance. We will want to talk about that, yes. That happens. Can’t win ’em all. We live in a fallen world.

But Gadfly’s first goal was to see if a close look at the D.A.’s video would enable him to determine precisely what de-escalation strategy is.

So he broke down the video into its parts.

Gadfly doesn’t expect any of you to follow his lead here (well, he hopes for Michele and Bud). But this was a necessary first step in forming his thoughts. Going to the primary source as he always says.

Maybe the next post, after he has gathered his thoughts, will be more user-friendly.

Two officers: the first five minutes of contact with Hall. Hall is standing on top of a safety barrier on an entrance bridge over a major highway. Officers move slowly, arms raised non-threateningly, talking constantly, gradually moving closer and closer to Hall. The officers repeat and repeat requests 1) to come off the bridge to talk and 2) repeat and repeat assurance he’s not in trouble. Also briefly offered by the officers are 3) assurance they will do him no harm, 4) an inquiry into what his problem is, and 5) an offer to find someone to help with his problem. When it’s noticed he’s carrying something, the officers repeat requests he tell them what it is, and when the thing is identified as a gun, they request he put it down. Finally, the officers take cover.

[First two officers, from a distance, slowly moving closer, officers separated, arms in air stretched out] [Hall is on safety barrier.] How ya doin’, Sir? How ya doin’? Can you come here? Can you come here? Can you come here? Just come off. Come off. We can talk. Come off. We can talk. We can talk. Hey sir, we can talk. Come off the bridge. C’mon, man. Sir, we can talk. We can talk, c’mon. What’s goin’ on? C’mon, what’s goin’ on? Can you step down and talk to us? You’re not in any trouble. You’re not in any trouble. You’re ok. C’mon, man, you’re not in any trouble. Can you get off? It’s ok, let’s just talk. Just step off for us, man, c’mon. You’re not in any trouble. You’re not in any trouble. It’s ok. It’s ok. C’mon man, we don’t have to . . . just . . . Can you step off? Step off. You’re not in any trouble. You’re not in any trouble, sir. Let’s talk, c’mon. C’mon, you’re ok. We’re not here to harm you. We’re not here to harm you, sir. Can you step off? Just relax. C’mon. Take a seat. C’mon. We’ll sit with you. We’ll talk to ya. Come sit down, man. Take a seat. Sir, we’ll talk to ya. You’re not in any trouble. You’re not in any trouble. (You got your mic on?) Sir, just have a seat. You’re not in trouble. What’s goin’ on, dude? C’mon, man. You’re not in any trouble. We’ll talk to you. (Just watch his left hand. Watch his left hand.) If you’re goin’ though a lot, we can have someone talk to ya. (Watch his left hand.)  [Hall starts moving away from the officers, smoking marijuana, unidentified object in left hand.] [Hall stumbles off safety barrier, then gets back on.] [Object in left hand is identified as a gun.] Lift your hands up for me. (Watch his left hand.) What’s in your . . . What’s got in your hands, man? What’s in your hand? Whatta ya got in your hands, man? C’mon, put your hands up. Hands up, dude. [Officers put their hands up as example.] Whatta ya got in your hands? (Get back, get back, get back.) [Officers retreating to safety.] (He’s got something in his hand. He’s got something in his left hand.) He’s got something tucked in his pants, in his left hand. C’mon, man, we can talk to ya. What’s goin on? (Seems like he has something in his left hand maybe.)  (Were you guys in the same car. No?)  (No, he’s, it looks like he may have something in his hand, did you see anything, I saw black in his left hand. I don’t know what’s he’s doing. Yeah, he’s got something. Back up. Back up. He may have some thing on his . . . Something could be in his left hand, Corp.) (We’ve got an audience down below.) (We think he has a phone.) (Could be something in his hand. I don’t want to rush at him then . . . ) [Hall backs off the barrier then gets right back up on it] (Hey, hey, hey, he’s got a gun. Gun! Gun! Gun! I’ve got a rifle.) [Hall is still on the safety barrier.] C’mon, man, drop the gun.

Negotiator #1 arrives (start min. 10 of video) 5 minutes after the first contact by the two other officers and maintains contact with Hall via a PA from behind police vehicles. This officer has a BA in psych, an  MA in clinical health psych, and has previously worked in the mental health field  for 5 years. He is said to use “recognized crisis intervention and de-escalation strategies.” He repeats 1) the previous requests to come off the bridge to talk and repeats 2) assurance Hall is not in trouble. He adds 6) that the police are there to help 3) not to harm, but that their help depends on him talking with the police about what’s bothering him, and 7) confidence that their help will definitely have a positive outcome. The desire to help is manifest in 9) concern for his physical state/welfare at the time. The repeated offers to help are a pronounced difference in this interaction. This negotiator 8) addresses Hall by name, 4) asks what his problem is, and succeeds in convincing Hall to sit on the barrier and then to sit on the roadway, but it is not clear when in this interaction this happens, and we don’t hear the verbal interaction that successfully gains Hall’s consent and compliance. Hall faces the officer for a time, as if listening. When #1 is replaced by negotiator #2, Hall is sitting in the roadway. This negotiator #1 is replaced after about 13 minutes of interacting with Hall. Negotiator #1 doesn’t mention the gun at all.

You’re not in any trouble right now. Just step off that over pass and come talk to us. C’mon, man, let’s just talk this out. You are not in trouble. What’s your name? You are going to have to say it real loud. CJ, is that your name? CJ, let’s let’s talk this out. But it’s hard to do that when I’m on a PA and you’re all the way over there. C’mon, CJ, take a step back. We’re here to help you, man. We want to help you, but you gotta tell us what we can do to help you and get you down from there and get you feelin’ better. CJ, nobody wants to hurt you here. You are not in any sort of trouble. We are here to help you. You gotta let us know what we can do to help you. CJ, what’s goin’ on today, what happened, man? You gotta, you gotta fill us in. But it’s hard to do that with you standing up there. We want to help you, man. We don’t want to see this go down like this. We’re here to help you, Bud. There’s nothing goin’ on right now that we can’t help you with, that we can’t get past. I see that you’re looking at me [Hall faces the officer]. Why don’t you just step down there, and we’ll come talk to ya [Hall does step down, sits on the barrier, then sits on the roadway, but it is not clear what he responds to, at what point in their interaction this happens, or why the officer doesn’t go to meet him as he indicates]. We’ll get ya something to get warm, a coat, a blanket, we’ll figure this out, man. Whatever you need, we’ll help you get there, we’ll figure this out.

Negotiator #2 arrives (start min. 12:20 of video), he is a 25-year veteran, with 15 years as a “PSP SERT negotiator,” as a “trained crisis negotiator,” who, like negotiator #1, also uses “recognized crisis intervention and de-escalation strategies.” Conversely, this guy is consumed by the gun. He asks Hall 13) to put the gun down over 40 times, stressing 14) that it’s an easy thing to do. Hall is sitting on the ground when Negotiator #2 starts. Hall is mainly unresponsive but does talk to the officer at least once, and at the officer’s successful urging, he does for a time put the gun on the safety barrier. The officer 16) minimizes Hall’s problem to him. This negotiator 10) tries empathy — I see your pain. He offers 3) freedom from harm, 6) help, 7) the assurance of a good outcome, 9) physical comfort/welfare, 5) contacting someone for him, 17) reminds him of the impact of his death on loved ones, and 18) tells him suicide isn’t what he wants to do. The officer asks him 15) to name something he needs. He 11) comes out from behind the car for a time. At some point, this officer and another 12) advance behind a ballistic shield in an effort to separate Hall from the gun. Their actions fail, and Hall retrieves the gun. After further negotiation, Hall, very slowly and with very short steps, gradually moves toward the officers. The officer repeatedly asks Hall to drop the gun. When Hall positions the gun — which has been mainly invisible to us in front of him as if his hands are in his jacket pockets — facing down on his left leg, an officer shoots at him several times and misses. Physically unfazed by the shots, Hall raises his arms in a “T” with the gun in his left hand pointing out to the side. Still with gun in hand, Hall raises his arms, transitioning into an “I give up” position, and officers shoot him.

[Hall is sitting on the road] Put that gun down on the concrete for me, ok? Put that down and I’ll come over there and talk to you, alright? We’ll get a nice warm cup of coffee and get some place warm to talk. [Hall asks if officers are trained to shoot if shot at and asks several times that they make it quick.] Am I trained to shoot? No, we don’t do that. I’m here to talk to you, that’s all. We’ll let you talk to whoever you want to . . . family . . . friends . . . whoever. Ok? You just have to put that gun down for me. You already did it once. Believe me, I have been doing this now for a very long time. There’s nothing we can’t work out for you. I can see you’re hurting, I see that. I’m here to listen to you, but I can’t do that from this far away, and I can’t come down there while you have that gun. I’ll meet you right there at that line. But you gotta leave that gun where it’s at, ok? I promise, no one will hurt you. You have my word. We’ll talk about anything that’s goin’ on here today, alright? You getting cold? Put that gun to the side. I’ll come down and talk to you. I’ll get you a jacket and stick you into a warm car, ok? Tell me what I can do for you, CJ. [The officer comes out from behind the car, can be seen full body for a time.] [Hall gets up, leans on barrier, remains unresponsive.] CJ, is there somebody I can call you want to talk to? No? You have to talk to one person and that’s me. I can’t carry on this conversation by myself. You gotta talk to me., Ok. You’re not in trouble. Nobody wants to hurt you. You gotta tell me what’s goin’ on, though, ok? CJ, what is it that I can do for you? What is it you want? You ok? Do you need an ambulance? [Hall handles his gun, goes to a backpack, gets and puts on a jacket, gets cell phone charger, and marijuna pipe., complies with request to put the gun down and moves toward the officers.] You get further away from that gun, they just will put their guns away, I promise. [Which means the police guns must be drawn at that time, which he can see, is aware of.]

Let me know when it’s good to come down, alright? You wanna come up a little further to me now? We’ll meet right up there, and we’ll talk, ok? Can I come down and talk to you? Cj, I’m not going to hurt you, I promise. Can I come down there? My partner and I are going to come to you, ok? Don’t run, no sudden moves, ok? I’m just gonna come talk to you, I promise. Stay right there for me? I have your word? [Two officers try to circle around Hall while holding ballistic shield trying to get between Hall and the gun. After 10 mins, Hall picks up gun again and moves back.]

CJ, what can I do for you? C’mon, CJ, you were doing so well before. The longer it goes, the worse it looks for you. Yeah, like I said, this is not the end of the world. I’m not sure what’s going on in your head, but this is not the end of the world, just a little bump in the road. Put that gun down, walk up here, and we’ll talk like men. I promise. Put that gun down and walk up here toward me. That’s all you gotta do. Then it’s done. It’s very easy. [Hall sending suicide messages to x-girlfriend throughout, starts to take short, halting steps toward officers, ignoring 30 pleas to put gun down. When Hall extends left arm along leg with gun in hand, one officer shoots at him but misses. Hall does not flinch. When shooting stops, Hall stretches arms out in “T” — crucifix? — position with gun in left hand. Then raises arms above his head, ignoring more commands to drop the gun.]

Put your gun on the ground and walk up here towards me. . . . I don’t think you want to stay out here all night, right? . . . . Put it down and walk up here toward me. That’s all you got to do. . . . You did it before, you can do it again [that is, you can put the gun down as you did before] . . . You’re not getting any warmer, neither are we. . . . Whatever’s going on inside your head, we’ll deal with it . . . . Put the gun down for me, ok? . . . There’s somebody out there that loves you. . . . You can do it. Put the gun down right at your feet. . . . It’s been an awful year, let’s not end on ??. . . . It’s only going to get colder. . . . You can do it. . . . We’re not going to hurt you. . . . Easy to do. . . . All you gotta do. . . . Put the gun down for me, alright? . . . Put it right down, c’mon man. Nobody’s going to hurt you. . . . I didn’t lie to you, did I? . . . Just drop it right there, seriously. That’s all you gotta do. . . . We’re not going to hurt you, put it down. . . . CJ, you don’t want to do this. . . . It’s not what you want to do. . . . We’re not going to shoot you, put it down. . . . You don’t need it. . . . CJ, put it down, [Hall all this while advancing very slowly toward the police, taking about 24 baby steps over 4 minutes] {Hall dangles the left hand with the gun at the beginning of the walk and dangles it briefly during the walk, so it looks like he had the gun in hand the whole way, not as the narrative has it, which indicates a transfer from waist band to hand that triggered the police shots.] Just a bump in the road, a minor hiccup that’s all [Hall extends left hand with gun along his leg pointing down]. . . . CJ, put it down, put it down, put it down now, CJ [vehemently, adamantly] [Police shoot and miss.] [Hall doesn’t flinch.] Drop it, drop it, drop the gun [Hall immediately raises his arms in a “T” after the shots.] [Brief pause, still holding gun, Hall lifts arms in air in “I give up” or touchdown position.] [Brief pause, then police shoot Hall mortally.]

Have you done your Christian Hall homework yet?

Latest post in a series on Christian Hall

ref: Case Study of police shooting of Christian Hall ripe for good discussion

So Gadfly has asked you to dig into the Christian Hall case as part of our almost year-long discussion of policing in the wake of the killing of George Floyd.

Hall was killed by police December 30. Law enforcement ruled the killing justified March 30. The Hall family is suing.

Gadfly has asked you to hold off on the family news conference yesterday.

Gadfly wants you to focus first on the Monroe County D.A. press conference March 30 and the 30-minute video of the 90-minute interaction between Hall and the police produced by the D.A.’s office.

The article below has links to 1) a cell phone video by a bystander of the final seconds of the interaction as well as 2) a video of the hour+long D.A. press conference during which the 30-minute video was played.

Here again is a breakdown of the D.A. press conference video:

1:13:46 mins. (contains the 30-min. video)
Start at min. 5:07
D.A. introduction mins. 5:07-12:30
The 30-min. video runs from mins. 12:30-45:30
D.A. presentation mins. 45:30-1:00:15
Q & A with reporters mins. 1:00:15-1:13:46

Go to the primary source.

You can watch the whole episode play out and then listen to the D.A.’s “reading” of the episode.

Good stuff.

Let’s talk tomorrow.


selections from Peter Hall and Molly Bilinski, “Monroe County DA announces deadly force was justified in fatal state police shooting of man with pellet gun on I-80 overpass.” Morning Call, March 30, 2021.

Monroe County law enforcement officials on Tuesday presented findings of an investigation of the December fatal shooting of 19-year-old Christian Hall by state police, concluding their use of deadly force was justified.

In a news conference Tuesday morning, First Assistant District Attorney Michael Mancuso said Hall carried a replica of a handgun that could fire plastic pellets as he stood atop the Route 33 overpass at Interstate 80 on Dec. 30. Police fired at Hall, striking him three times after he walked slowly toward troopers and ignored commands to put down the pellet gun.

Mancuso called it a classic suicide-by-cop scenario, “fueled by Mr. Hall’s mental state and his desire to end his life.” The troopers reasonably believed that they were at risk of death or serious bodily harm and there was no evidence of ill intent in the officers’ actions, he said.

“At no time did the troopers believe anything but the firearm Mr. Hall was brandishing, holding and putting in and out of his waistband, and ultimately lifted up was nothing but a real firearm,” Mancuso said. “Why was he acting like this gun was real? What did he want to do? What did he want to have the troopers do to him? That’s the mindset that we started to see.”

Lawyers for Hall’s family said they would respond to the investigation’s findings in a virtual news conference Wednesday morning. They have argued that Hall was standing with his hands up when officers shot him, and his killing “should never have happened.”

A presentation of video and audio from two state police vehicle cameras showed the nearly 1 ½-hour effort by troopers to defuse the situation from two different angles.

According to the video, a state police corporal and four state troopers responded, including one trooper with a background in psychological health and another who is a 25-year veteran, trained crisis negotiator and member of the state police Special Emergency Response Team.

The video shows Hall standing atop the overpass wall as traffic passes below on I-80 when the first two troopers arrive. Hall is smoking in the video and the video narrator says a glass marijuana pipe was found at the scene. The troopers approach Hall with hands raised and try to coax him off the barrier.

“We can talk, c’mon off the bridge,” one says. A second trooper warns the other to watch for an object in Hall’s left hand, and as Hall stumbles and steps down to the deck of the bridge, they see it appears to be a gun, according to narration in the video.

Throughout the encounter, officials tell Hall to put down the gun “upwards of 100 times,” Mancuso said.

At one point, Hall placed the pellet gun atop the concrete barrier and troopers attempted to position themselves between Hall and the gun, but were unable to do so before he picked it up again, narration in the video says.

The troopers continued attempts to persuade Hall, whom they addressed as CJ, to put down the pellet gun and walk toward them, the video shows. Instead, Hall slowly took several steps toward troopers with the pellet gun in his left hand next to his left leg. One trooper fired several shots at Hall, but struck the barrier behind Hall.

As Hall continued moving toward the troopers with the pellet gun in his left hand above his head, troopers fired again, striking Hall three times. He was treated on the scene and rushed to Lehigh Valley Hospital-Pocono, but died there that afternoon.

Mancuso said the evidence was “relatively unambiguous” and that an analysis of Hall’s cellphone records showed his suicidal intent. Hall had taken photos from the overpass a week before the shooting, which he paired with suicidal messages. Hall sent suicidal text messages to his former girlfriend during the crisis, Mancuso said.

The investigation also touched on Hall’s juvenile court record because he said to the trooper that he didn’t want to go back to jail. However, neither charges nor convictions were revealed.

A non-law enforcement mental health professional wouldn’t have helped the situation, Mancuso said, noting that he was speculating.

“There isn’t a provision in the law for that or resources for that,” he said, noting the state has to stop cutting back on mental health treatment facilities, as he’s seen an uptick in mental health-based crime. “In this case, I don’t think it would matter only because he was still under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court and had been provided all of the treatment for several years … That’s the best our system has to offer.”

There are safety issues involved, too, he said.

“I have never met a mental health professional that would want to be in that situation,” he said. “They wouldn’t mind doing an evaluation, therapy — but not under that setting.”

A number of communities across the country have developed systems in which mental health professionals are at the ready to respond in situations where it is safe to do so. Bensalem Township, in Bucks County, launched such a program last year in conjunction with the county government. Two social workers employed by the county and embedded with the police department are available to respond when police determine a call involves mental health issues, said public safety director Fred Harran.

Since the social workers began responding to calls in January, the number of people who call police regularly for mental-health-related problems has declined, Harran said. That’s because the social workers are able to identify people who need social services and ensure that they follow through. The goal, Harran said, is to address mental health issues in the community before they escalate to threats or violence.

Asked what he would tell Hall’s family, Mancuso said, “We’re sorry for your loss. We can’t imagine the impact that has had on you. We don’t believe you should blame yourself for anything. CJ had a lot of mental health issues and in the end, they were too much for him.”

Case study of police shooting of Christian Hall ripe for good discussion

Latest in a series of posts on Christian Hall

ref: Recent news about troublesome “first contact” situations involving the police
ref: Molly Bilinski and Peter Hall, “Family of teen fatally shot by state police on Poconos overpass announce lawsuit, are being represented by civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump.” Morning Call, February 3, 2021.


It was another riveting day yesterday in the Chauvin trial.

But let me focus your attention on a fairly local example of police behavior that Gadfly feels raises great points for discussion about the nature of police training in mental health calls.

Gadfly earlier called your attention to a December 30, 90-minute “first contact” situation involving the Pennsylvania State Police and 19-year-old Christian Hall, who was apparently intent on committing suicide, that took place on an overpass on Rt. 80.

Police killed Hall.

A cell phone video by a motorist stranded on Rt. 80 showed Hall’s hands up (see the video here), though holding what was thought to be a gun, when he was shot, sparking characteristic debate about police propensity for violence and ability (or inability) to handle mental health situations.

Yesterday the Monroe County District Attorney ruled the shooting justified.

At the press conference yesterday, the D.A. showed a video of the incident created by his office to bolster the ruling in a move that even the reporters noted as extraordinary.

Gadfly thinks we can say with confidence that the D.A. took the unusual step of creating that video to get out in front of the controversy bound to result from the ruling.

For here was another instance of police cleared from wrong-doing in a tragic situation involving a mentally distressed person.

And — drum-roll, please — the celebrity lead attorney for the family is none another than Benjamin Crump, attorney for the George Floyd family and other families in similar high profile police shootings.

Hall’s family is holding a press conference today. It will be interesting to see if Crump is there.

But close your ears and eyes.

Resist learning anything about the family press conference today. We can pick it up later.

Instead, spend some time — and it will take a bit of time — watching the D.A.’s press conference and video from the links below.

Remember that Gadfly always encourages you to go to the primary sources yourself and form your own opinions.

Do that.

For Gadfly will want to talk with you about what you find there.

He finds much food for thought and discussion.

Much that relates to reimagining public safety.

Dig in, and meet him back here in a day or two to share perspectives, questions, and judgments.


Sarah Cassi, “Troopers legally justified in fatally shooting man on Route 33 overpass, DA says.” March 30, 2021.
a 30-min. video of the incident from beginning to end from police cameras prepared by the Monroe County District Attorney’s office is linked to this article

Video presentation from Christian Hall use-of-force press conference
This is the 30-min. video on YouTube

March 30 press conference by the Monroe County District Attorney’s office
1:13:46 mins. (contains the 30-min. video)
Start at min. 5:07
D.A. introduction mins. 5:07-12:30
The 30-min. video runs from mins. 12:30-45:30
D.A. presentation mins. 45:30-1:00:15
Q & A with reporters mins. 1:00:15-1:13:46

Recent news about troublesome “first contact” situations involving the police

Latest in a series of posts in the wake of the George Floyd murder

A police officer charged with murder, an hysterical 9-year-old pepper-sprayed, a suicidal man with his hands up killed, suits lodged.

Gadfly reminds you that evidence abounds that something is wrong in the way that police respond to mental health calls and other “first contact” situations.

We have been promised a Public Safety Committee meeting to discuss these kinds of things locally.

We are not that far from the first anniversary of George Floyd’s death, and we don’t have a lot to show for the introspection that tragedy should have invoked.

Yes, there’s a lot going on in the world — pandemics, insurrections, multiple impeachments, record-breaking storms . . . you name it, we seem to be suffering it.

And, yes, the Police Department has initiated a modest pilot program with the Health folk.

(By the way, we learned at the January 25 BASD meeting that police department involvement in the “Handle with Care” program has been very successful.)

Unfortunately, the politics of “defunding” ensnarl such discussion.

But this has nothing to do with politics, but simply recognizing that there is an obvious problem in police practice that needs to be discussed.

But time is passing, and election season might make this an uneasy subject to bring up.


Will Wight, “Former Columbus Police Officer Is Charged With Murder.” New York Times.” February 3, 2021.   [This is the Andre Hill case]

A Columbus police officer who was fired after fatally shooting a Black man in December was arrested and charged with felony murder on Wednesday, Attorney General Dave Yost of Ohio announced.

The officer, Adam Coy, a 19-year veteran who is white, was also charged with felonious assault and two counts of dereliction of duty.

Mr. Coy shot Andre Hill four times after responding to a call about a suspicious vehicle. When he and another officer arrived at the scene, Mr. Coy found Mr. Hill in a garage and opened fire within seconds.

Mr. Yost said his office acted as a special prosecutor in the case, reviewing evidence, interviewing witnesses and presenting charges to a grand jury, which indicted Mr. Coy on Wednesday.

Tim Craig and K.J. Edelman,” Mother of 9-year-old Rochester, N.Y. girl said police rebuffed her pleas for mental health help for her daughter.” Washington Post, February 3, 2021.

The mother of the 9-year-old Rochester, N.Y., girl who was handcuffed and pepper-sprayed by police said Wednesday that she repeatedly told an officer that her daughter was having a mental health breakdown and she pleaded with them to call a specialist instead of trying to detain her.

The officer said “no,” Elba Pope said.

Pope, 30, said the incident, which sparked nationwide outrage and prompted fresh scrutiny of how law enforcement agencies deal with people in emotional distress, has left her rattled and fearful that her daughter could suffer long-term emotional trauma.

“I was saying, ‘We need mental health out there,’ ” Pope said in an interview. “He ignored me.”

Molly Bilinski and Peter Hall, “Family of teen fatally shot by state police on Poconos overpass announce lawsuit, are being represented by civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump.” Morning Call, February 3, 2021.

“Christian Hall needed a helping hand, but yet he got bullets while he had his hands up,” said Benjamin L. Crump, the family’s attorney. ” … When people have mental health crises, the police should de-escalate the situation, not settle it with a gun. That’s not what good policing is.”

At 1:38 p.m., state police responded to a report of a suicidal man and found Hall standing with a gun near the bridge, according to the agency. After speaking with Hall, troopers persuaded him to put the gun down, but he picked the gun back up and began walking toward the troopers, police said.

Police say Hall pointed the gun in their direction, and they shot him.

But, Crump and Jacob argue that Hall was standing with his hands up when officers shot him, and his killing “should never have happened.”

Hall was going through a breakup with his girlfriend, Crump said, and was suffering from mental health issues and could have been contemplating suicide.

A new video [linked in this article], recorded by a bystander during the incident and circulating on social media shows “Christian has his hands up — both hands — up in the air,” Jacob said.