A California police officer acted lawfully when he shot and killed a legally blind man with schizophrenia during an encounter at a gas station in 2015, prosecutors said Tuesday.
A report made public Tuesday by the San Bernardino County district attorney's office said Fontana police officers were justified when an officer fatally shot James Hall on Nov. 22, 2015 after responding to a call of a possible robbery at a gas station.
When officers first arrived at the gas station, the clerk was hiding in a freezer and Hall was inside the store, holding a knife in one hand and a rock in the other, prosecutors said.
An eight-minute video clip of the encounter was posted on YouTube in January by attorneys for Hall's family. The video, which was captured on the store's security cameras, shows an officer entering the store with his gun drawn as fellow officers arrive and Hall moves further into the store.
The video, which does not have sound, appears to show Hall at some points holding something, but the item isn't clear. At other times, Hall looks empty-handed. The video shows a throng of officers pointing guns at Hall as he moves sideways along a counter, leans on it and then collapses.
A transcript of audio recordings taken by officers during the encounter, which was included in the report, showed several different officers told Hall they didn't want to hurt him but he had to put down the knife.
"Please give up, we don't want to hurt you," an unidentified officer is quoted in the report as saying to Hall.
Prosecutors said the officers tried to convince Hall to surrender but he wouldn't comply. Police shot bean bag and sponge rounds at Hall but they said he still refused to put down the knife. A Fontana officer fired his AR-15 rifle after Hall "made a move toward the officers which they perceived as potentially life threatening," prosecutors said.
Hall, who was shot three times in the chest and shoulder, died at the scene within minutes.
Hall, 47, has struggled with mental health issues, but he had been taking care of his ailing mother for years and was well known in his neighborhood and at the convenience store, his family's attorney has said.
Ben Meiselas, an attorney representing Hall's family, criticized the report and the district attorney's handling of the case. He said officers should have worked harder to deescalate the situation and should not have used deadly force.
"They didn't deploy standard practices and procedures that you use with someone with mental illness. They instead went in with their artillery," he said. "Instead of treating this like a mental illness, they treated this like a war zone."
Hall's family has brought a wrongful death lawsuit against the police department saying officers used "constitutionally unreasonable and excessive force." The lawsuit seeks unspecified monetary damages.