MARTINEZ, Calif. (AP) — Prosecutors and defense attorneys have presented competing narratives in the trial of a California police officer accused of shooting and killing a mentally ill man, alternately asking the jury to sympathize with the officer’s need to make split-second decisions or the troubled victim whose only crime was not stopping for police.
The two versions emerged as prosecutors opened their case on Monday against Officer Andrew Hall, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
Hall is on trial on two felony counts of voluntary manslaughter in the November 2018 death of 33-year-old Laudemer Arboleda, an unarmed Filipino man who was slowly driving away from police when Hall shot him nine times.
The fatal shooting in the wealthy San Francisco suburb of Danville cast a spotlight on what criminal justice activists call a case of delayed justice and its deadly consequences.
Felony charges were announced against Hall two-and-a-half years after Arboleda was shot. During that period, Hall fatally shot another man, Tyrell Wilson, who was homeless and mentally ill.
On Monday, prosecutors focused on the shooting of Arboleda.
“Ten shots,” prosecutor Colleen Gleason said, as she presented dashboard and bodycam footage showing Hall jumping out of his car, running up to Arboleda’s vehicle and firing repeatedly into the car's windows. All but one of the shots hit Arboleda.
Gleason added: “The defendant fired 10 shots into the slow-moving vehicle of a mentally ill man.”
Arboleda had periodically shown signs of depression, but began displaying concerning behavior in the months before his death. Just months before his encounter with Hall, Arboleda was involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital for three weeks and prescribed medication for psychosis and schizophrenia, his family has said.
The events unfolded on Nov. 3, 2018 when a resident called 911 to report that a man later identified as Arboleda was knocking on doors and lingering outside homes in a Danville cul-de-sac. When officers arrived, they saw Arboleda get into into his car and drive away.
Arboleda led officers on a nine-minute slow-speed chase. Hall was not involved in the initial pursuit but stopped his vehicle at an intersection to block Arboleda’s car. Police video footage shows Hall stepping in the path of Arboleda’s vehicle and firing a volley of shots into the windshield and passenger side window.
Life and death situations are part of an officer’s job, Gleason said, but added: “This was not one of those times.” She told the jury, “You will find his response was excessive, unreasonable and unnecessary.”
The defense also played video footage of the incident Monday from different angles.
Defense attorney Nicole Pifari emphasized the quick life-or-death decisions Hall had to make. She zoomed in on the right front tire of Arboleda’s vehicle in the moments before the shooting, to show it was pointing toward Hall.
“Really this comes down to about a two-second window,” defense attorney Harry Stern told reporters outside the courthouse. “That’s what this case is all about.”
Contra Costa County District Attorney Diana Becton spent more than two years reviewing the case and filed charges on April 21, 2021. The announcement of charges came a day after a jury convicted Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin of killing George Floyd.
It also came six weeks after Hall, who is white, shot and killed Tyrell Wilson, a Black man. The shooting of Wilson remains under investigation.
Hall is still employed by the Contra Costa Sheriff’s Office, which has a contract to provide police services to Danville.
The sheriff’s office had cleared Hall of misconduct after a nine-month investigation into Arboleda’s shooting. Hall has been on paid administrative leave since the second fatal shooting.