Milton Hall was a homeless, mentally ill man who sometimes became belligerent when he was off the medication he took to help control his emotions.
In 2012, Hall, armed with a knife, squared off against a number of Saginaw, Michigan police. Hall refused to drop the knife, despite the number of officers facing off against him with drawn weapons. Hall took several steps back, then began advancing on officers.
Somewhat predictably, officers opened fired as he closed to within 5 yards.
The barrage of fire lasted roughly six seconds. 46 shots were fired by six officers. 12 of those shots hit Milton Hall. He died as a result.
The U. S. Department of Justice investigated the shooting, and found:
The evidence in this case shows that on July 1, 2012, SPD officers responded to the Riverview Plaza in Saginaw, Mich., after receiving a 911 call about a confrontation between a man, later identified as Hall, and a clerk at a Mobil gas station. An SPD sergeant was the first officer to arrive at the scene, where she located Hall in the plaza’s parking lot and saw that he was carrying a knife with an approximately three-inch blade. After encountering Hall and seeing that he was armed with a knife, the sergeant requested backup. When the second officer arrived, Hall approached that officer’s patrol car and jabbed the hood of the vehicle with a knife. The six remaining SPD officers on duty that day, including a K-9 officer and his dog, reported to the plaza, approached Hall and repeatedly ordered him to drop his knife. Hall did not comply with the officers’ commands, and verbally responded that he would not put the knife down. While the SPD officers came together on the scene, the K-9 officer and his dog approached and retreated from Hall several times. During this time, Hall was intermittently shifting his feet and getting into and out of a crouching stance. When Hall, with the knife still in his hand, moved toward the K-9 officer and his dog, six SPD officers fired at him and fatally wounded him.
Two SPD patrol car dashcams captured a video recording, with no audio, of much of the encounter between Hall and the SPD officers. The dashcams on the other SPD patrol cars were either not operational or not activated during this incident. Several civilians witnessed the incident and recorded portions of it on their cellular phones.
After the shooting, all of the SPD officers at the scene wrote reports. In these reports, the officers who discharged their weapons explained that they did so because they believed Hall posed an imminent threat to the officers’ safety.
After a careful review of all of the evidence, experienced prosecutors from the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division and the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan have determined that t he evidence in this case is insufficient to prove , beyond a reasonable doubt, that the SPD officers willfully shot Hall for an unlawful purpose, rather than for their stated purpose of preventing Hall from harming SPD staff. Even if the officers were mistaken in their assessment of the threat posed by Hall, this would not establish that the officers acted willfully, or with an unlawful intent, when using deadly force against Hall. Accordingly , this tragic event does not present sufficient evidence of willful misconduct to give rise to a federal criminal prosecution of the police officers involved.
It is very sad that Mr. Hall declined to take his medications. It is very sad that Mr. Hall refused to relinquish his knife, failed to respond to police commands, and then took several steps towards officers with the knife still in his hand, putting officers in a position where they felt compelled to fire their weapons to defend their own lives.
Hall’s mother wants “justice.” She feels that her son was shot without merit, and that officers used excessive force.
In an ideal world, officers would have found a way to use less-lethal weaponry to subdue Mr. Hall, but there is no requirement—legal or moral—for officers to respond to a credibly lethal force threat with a lesser degree of force.
While we sympathize with the Hall family over the loss of Milton Hall, it was ultimately his actions with a lethal weapon that created this situation.