The parents of a 19-year-old Pennsylvania man who was suffering a mental crisis when he was shot and killed by police while holding a gun are calling for an independent investigation into the events that led to his death.
Christian Hall was in the middle of a mental health emergency when Pennsylvania State Police fatally shot him on December 30, 2020, after a nearly two-hour standoff captured on video, authorities say.
Troopers responded to “a report of a distraught and suicidal male” standing on a bridge in Hamilton Township in Monroe County.
Once on site they immediately found Hall standing on the ledge of a concrete barrier overlooking the highway and later determined he had what appeared to be a firearm, according to a police statement and investigative report of the incident produced by the Monroe District Attorney’s Office.
Following Hall’s death, law enforcement determined he was carrying a pellet gun which was manufactured to look like a semi-automatic pistol.
Hall initially complied with police orders to place his weapon on the ground, according to police, but as troopers continued to negotiate with him, he “became uncooperative and retrieved the firearm and began walking towards the Troopers. At which time, Hall pointed the firearm in the Troopers direction.”
“As a result, Troopers fired striking Hall,” police said in their statement, adding he was taken into custody and provided with medical attention on the scene before being transported to a local medical center where was pronounced dead.
Christian’s parents – Gareth and Fe Hall – maintain their son never pointed a weapon at police, and that he was actually surrendering to the troopers when he was killed, attorney Devon M. Jacob told CNN on Thursday afternoon. Jacob and civil rights attorney Ben Crump are representing the Hall family.
The December statement by state police – which said troopers were justified in their shooting – was “misleading” and “false,” Jacob said, and he believes the unedited video later released by a subpoena issued to the Pennsylvania State Police supports that.
What the video shows
Jacob subpoenaed unedited video of the altercation from state police in April and the new footage – which he received in July – illustrates the PA State police “weren’t equipped or trained on how to end the incident in a safe way,” he said.
“Pennsylvania State Police shot and killed an individual who was clearly surrendering which is an unlawful homicide,” Jacob added.
The Monroe County DA’s office hasn’t responded to CNN’s questions, including why the Hall family wasn’t shown the original, unblurred video of the final moments of their son’s life prior to their public determination the officer’s actions were justified, and its response to Jacob’s assertion the DA’s office hasn’t referred the case to the state’s attorney general for independent review.
For its part, the attorney general’s office says it “does not have jurisdiction to investigate this matter unless a referral is sent by a District Attorney for either a conflict or resource need, which did not happen in this case.”
The PA State Police haven’t responded to CNN’s request for comment.
According to CNN’s review of the unedited video – provided to CNN by Jacob – Hall is not seen pointing his weapon at police, as state police indicated in their December 2020 statement, before troopers fire upon him.
He does, as police and the DA’s office describe, ignore dozens of police orders to drop his weapon.
Following what appears to be warning shots fired by one of the officers on the scene, “Hall then raises the gun outward toward his side and then upwards by bending his elbow at a ninety-degree angle,” the DA’s office said.
“After ignoring further commands to drop the gun, both Corporal #1 and Trooper #1 fire a total of approximately eight shots striking Hall who falls to the roadway,” the DA’s report describes.
The edited version released by the DA’s office in March blurs the moment of Hall’s death, but his physical gestures and actions are accurately reflected in their report, according to CNN’s review.
The Halls have filed a complaint with the PA Attorney General, the FBI and the Department of Justice, Jacob told CNN.
As of late Thursday evening, CNN had not heard back from the federal offices.