Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Police Shoot Milton Hall 30 Times in Unjustified Killing

In the above video, Saginaw, MI police shoot at Milton Hall, a 47 year-old Black man who his family says suffered from "serious mental health issues," shot at approximately 46 times by six police officers, according to Michigan Live news. Police officers fire 30 shots that actually strike and and kill Mr. Hall.

Police apparently say that they were called to the scene because the man they shot was involved in an incident with a convenience store clerk beforehand.

One witness who observed the shooting said that Mr. Hall assumed a karate posture before police shot at him. It is not clear how it has become accepted as a matter of fact that Mr. Hall was holding a knife when police shot him, although it must be true that police say he was holding a knife, because that appears in the various news reports. One news video said police said the man was holding "some sort of knife."

The lack of specificity leads me to wonder why the police cannot say or have not said exactly what "sort of knife" the man was holding. To my eyes, the knife is not visible in the video. Was he holding a knife or wasn't he, I would like to know? Was he holding the same knife in the convenience store and, if so, is there any video confirming that?

It seems to me, based on watching the video and listening to the shouts of Mr. Hall, that Mr. Hall was in a self-destructive and combative state of mind when he was confronted by the police and shot. In the video, Mr. Hall says, "My name is Milton Hall and I just called the police." Then he challenges the police, shouting, "Let the dog go! Let the motherfucking dog go!" The dog is not visible in the video and it is not clear whether police did let the dog go and, if not, then why not, as an alternative to shooting Mr. Hall 30 times without releasing the dog.

It seems to me, based on the video, that Mr. Hall instigated the confrontation himself because he was in a self-destructive and mentally agitated state of mind. When confronted with potentially overwhelming force, including six police officers, the dog and their guns, he invited the police to use such force as they wished. That is consistent with the "serious mental health issues" from which the family told the media Hall suffered.

Mr. Hall seems to me to have committed suicide by cop, but did police make it too easy for him? Was this an assisted suicide? It seems clear that, even if Mr. Hall was holding a knife (that hasn't been presented for public inspection), police could still have released the dog to disable the man; could have shot the man in the leg or arm; could have thrown a net over him and toppled him to the ground; could have toppled him with a fire hose, and could have employed a myriad other strategies instead of and before shooting this man to kill.

I surmise that these police officers, instead of using problem-solving skills that a game control officer would use to capture an wild animal alive, were intent only on arresting Mr. Hall, dead or alive. When one officer decided to shoot him, they all did so until he was dead, instead of one of them taking announcing to the others that he would shoot Mr. Hill until he was disabled, but not necessarily until he was dead.

Was the police's homicidal behavior aroused by a knife or by Mr. Hall's skin color? What seems shocking about videos such as this one is that, although Blacks are a mere 13% of the population of the United States, people with brown skin seem to represent virtually all of the victims of shootings such as this one. If there are cases in which police shoot white-skinned knife wielders thiry times, none of us seems to be aware of those cases. That is, perhaps, because they don't exist.

Instead, police seem to arrive on the scene, observe or know already that the confrontation involves a Black person, and then mete out the treatment that they regularly use in cases involving Black people, including unnecessary lethal force and/or barbaric and atrocious reprehensible force and other behavior. Police know that there are rarely serious consequences for behaving in this way in incidents with Black people, but there might be a national firestorm of unprecedented proportions if they treated a white person in the same way. It would not be long tolerated and police would face serious consequences typically do not accrue when they kill a man with brown skin.

The media reports say local residents are angry that, after six weeks, the police have not reported the results of an internal investigation of the shooting. One problem of US conflict between police forces and the public is that police forces themselves are charged with the task of investigating their own behavior and incidents that raise questions about their own judgments.

Police certainly should gather all of the information that is available. Rather than release a statement about their findings, they should release all of the information they have gathered, including ballistics reports, recordings, officer, witness and family statements, and other information that would assist members of the public, the district attorney, attorneys for the family, the media, state and federal authorities in determining whether police behavior is problematic and what should be done about it.

Clearly, police perform various functions in the process of an investigation of themselves. They gather information internally; try to manage the public's anger, distrust and demands; engage in efforts to limit the damage to police and municipal interests that has been caused by an incident; defend a city and individual police officers from civil liability; protect police officers and their superiors from potential criminal liability and manage the public's perception of and acceptance of police behavior and authority.

It ought to be clear to the public that no unbiased "determination" about a shooting can come from an agency whose self-interests are so many and are so potentially and directly in opposition to the public's interest in knowing the truth. For these reasons, an investigation conducted by the police is unlikely to reveal any account of the facts that is unbiased in its investigation, compilation and publicly announced conclusions.

Rather than clamor for the police to complete an investigation, the public might more usefully clamor for access to physical evidence and police statements that could subsequently become evidence in a civil suit. The same evidence that would be the basis of a civil judgment is evidence that the public should demand to see in order to understand and judge the facts involving those who are ostensibly public servants. Although the demands might be met with silence, at least the demands themselves would be more educative and less misleading and beguiling of the public's expectations.

Since any police report is typically summary (does not include underlying evidence) and biased, I don't understand why the public would or should ask for such a report at all. It's a futile waste of time and energy, except for fulfilling any formal requirements that a complaint be lodged.

There are many strategy alternatives that Blacks might conceivably employ to seek justice or provide a police deterrent in cases like this one. Demanding a police review seems more like an exercise in futility than a strategy, unless it is coupled with the preparation of a civil suit and taking other measures. It's a dilatory request for a foregone conclusion.


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Savina Gonzales said...

No man should have to be shot 30 times no matter what situation they are in. It seems to me that the cop kept shooting purposely and if that's the case then race does play a major role in this death. Whether or not he had a knife, there was no harm to the cop(s) involved. His medical problem shows how idiotic these cops really are to not have heard/seen it from the start. Justice needs to be served and this police brutality needs to come to an end. It's getting out of hand and there needs to be anction that takes place that stops all of this.

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