A lawyer for the man’s family called it a “big step forward” in making law enforcement accountable.
After deliberating just two days, the jury returned a split verdict in the case against Constable Andrew Hall, who now faces up to 17 years in prison. They agreed that Hall was guilty on the count of firing wrongly with his gun in the death of Laudemer Arboleda, 33.
But the jury found itself deadlocked on another more serious charge of intentional homicide. Hall’s sentencing is slated for Jan. 14, according to the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office, which says he decides whether or not to pursue a new trial for manslaughter.
The case marked the first time that a police officer has been charged in an on-duty shooting in Contra Costa County, east of San Francisco, and is part of a push by more prosecutors to punish the police misconduct following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. nationwide calls for social justice.
“Today’s guilty verdict holds the accused Andrew Hall responsible for his excessive use of force in the fatal shooting of Laudemer Arboleda,” prosecutor Diana Becton said in a statement. His “actions were not only a crime, but they tarnished the badge and damaged the reputation of all the good and hardworking police officers who work for our community.”
Becton has been criticized for spending more than two years reviewing the case before laying charges on April 21, 2021. The announcement of the charges came a day after a jury convicted Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin for killing Floyd.
It also happened six weeks after Hall, who is white, shot dead another man, Tyrell Wilson, a homeless black man whose family was suffering from depression and paranoia. Wilson’s shooting is still under investigation.
The fatal shootings – over the span of two and a half years by the same officer – have brought to light what criminal justice activists call a delayed justice case and its deadly consequences. The Contra Costa Sheriff’s Office, which has a contract to provide policing services to Danville, had cleared Hall of misconduct after its own nine-month investigation into the Arboleda shooting.
Civil rights attorney John Burris, who is representing Arboleda’s family in a separate civil lawsuit, said the assault conviction offered a measure of justice to the family but had also disappointed them.
“For them, it was not recognized that (Arboleda) had been wrongfully killed by the police. They thought he should have been charged with murder, not manslaughter, ”said Burris, who nonetheless felt the verdict showed progress.
“It sends a message to other police officers that you can clearly be prosecuted and convicted,” said Burris, whose list of high-profile police violence cases includes Rodney King and Oscar Grant.
“This is a big step forward in the search for police accountability,” Burris said. “It was important. Is this an offshoot of George Floyd? May be. But I also think it’s a drumbeat of what’s happened over the last 30 years from Rodney King to today.
During Hall’s three-week trial, prosecutors and defense attorneys presented competing narratives, alternately asking the jury to sympathize with the officer’s need to make split-second decisions or the victim troubled whose only crime was not to stop for the police.
The events unfolded on November 3, 2018, after a resident called 911 to report that a man later identified as Arboleda was knocking on doors and lingering outside houses in a cul-de- Danville bag. When officers arrived, they saw Arboleda get into his car and drive away.
Arboleda led the officers in a 9 minute low speed chase through Danville. Hall was not involved in the initial chase but stopped his vehicle at an intersection to block Arboleda’s car. Police video shows Hall getting in the way of Arboleda’s vehicle and firing a volley of shots through the windshield and passenger side window.
Prosecutors argued Hall used “excessive, unreasonable and unnecessary” force. During opening remarks, prosecutor Colleen Gleason presented dashboard and body camera footage showing Hall jumping out of his car, running to Arboleda’s vehicle and repeatedly shooting the car windows.
“The accused fired 10 shots in the slow moving vehicle of a mentally ill person,” Gleason said. Nine of the bullets hit Arboleda, who had periodically shown signs of depression but began to display disturbing behavior in the months leading up to his death. Just months before she met Hall, Arboleda was involuntarily confined to a mental hospital for three weeks and prescribed medication for psychosis and schizophrenia, her family said.
Lawyers for Hall said the officer feared for his safety and used body camera footage from different angles to show that the right front tire of Arboleda’s car was pointed towards Hall when the shooting started, indicating that ‘he was heading in her direction.
During the trial, defense attorney Harry Stern pointed to the quick life and death decisions Hall had to make.
“Really, it comes down to a window of about two seconds,” Stern told reporters earlier in the lawsuit. “That’s what this is about in this case. “
Stern could not immediately be reached for comment after Tuesday’s verdict.
This story has been corrected to show that the jury was deadlocked on a second count of intentional homicide.
Jocelyn Gecker, The Associated Press