Prominent Civil Rights Attorney Retained by Miles Hall's Family

The family of Miles Hall, a mentally ill man whom Walnut Creek, California police fatally shot, has hired high-profile civil rights attorney John Burris. At a candlelight vigil on June 8, Hall’s mother, Taun, announced the decision to seek “justice for Miles.” Burris said the shooting raised questions about whether officers properly handled the fatal June 2 encounter with the 23-year-old man, the East Bay Times reported. Police received several 911 calls that a distressed man with mental illness was threatening relatives.

“I’m working through this, but this is a mental health issue, and it brings up the question: Did you respond appropriately to a person you were well aware has a mental illness?” Burris said, according to the East Bay Times. Burris claimed that Hall’s parents had reached out to police about their son’s mental illness prior to the incident. The incident began with Hall’s grandmother calling 911 around 4:41 p.m. saying he was threatening her. Just a minute later, a neighbor called 911 and said they heard a possible gunshot from the home. Hall’s mother called 911 six minutes after the first call and said her son was being violent, threatening her with a metal pole, and smashing a window, CBS SF reported. Taun warned dispatch that her son had mental health problems and would be aggressive with police.

When officers arrived at the home, Hall was walking on Arlene Lane holding a pry bar. Officers ordered him to drop it, but Hall instead charged towards the officers, police said. According to CBS SF, police initially fired multiple bean bag rounds, but the 23-year-old continued running towards them.Two officers then fired their handguns at Hall, fatally wounding him. Hall was taken to John Muir Hospital where he was pronounced dead.Hall’s parents were known to be open and informative with their neighbors about their son’s illness. Neighbor Eldon Hawksworth told CBS SF, “His parents have said, ‘Be aware that our son has this mental condition and don’t be afraid.’”

“This is one of those classic cases about the family working with the community on this issue, including the police, about their son’s mental illness,” Burris said. “They were seeking help. We have a lot of these cases when 911 calls for help end up with the kid being dead.”The five police officers involved were placed on paid administrative leave. The Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office and the Walnut Creek Police Department are conducting a joint investigation into the shooting, police said in a statement. Authorities also said they expected to release the officers’ body camera footage at a later date.

In a statement released on Facebook on June 5, Walnut Creek Police Department Chief Thomas Chaplin said that the fatal shooting was “an outcome nobody wanted to have happen.”“As Chief of Police, I want to acknowledge the tragic incident that occurred on Sunday, June 2, Arlene Lane, where a confrontation between our officers and a young man resulted in his unfortunate death,” Chaplin wrote, according to The Mercury News. “My heart goes out to the family of Miles Hall.”As part of their investigation, authorities reviewed body camera footage and 911 tapes, police said. Chaplin added, “We expect to release more details, including video from the encounter, within the next couple of weeks. We are committed to transparency surrounding this event.”

City spokeswoman Betsy Burkhart confirmed that officers were equipped with a Taser, but authorities did not comment on why handguns were deployed instead, The Mercury News reported. Hall’s family has called for both a transparent investigation into their son’s shooting and assessment of the training officers receive to de-escalate situations involving people with mental illnesses. During a candlelight vigil at Walnut Creek’s Civic Park on June 8, Hall’s mother said she felt like she was on a journey to save her son’s life. “We tried everything we could over the last three years,” Taun said. “Unfortunately, we had to use police resources and they failed him. The system failed him.”

About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.