Features Volume 69, Issue 4

Reform in the Name of Miles Hall

by Mateo Raquejo-Tejada and Mya Rafferty

At least four calls were made between Miles Hall’s mother and grandmother to a dispatcher explaining that Hall suffered from mental health issues and was currently having a crisis. When the police arrived, Hall ran in the direction of the officers after they had gotten his attention.  Hall was then continuously ordered to stop, but as he ran past the officers, he was shot and fatally wounded: “One officer fired several less-lethal “bean bag” rounds as Halls approached at a run, but he did not stop and other officers opened fire, fatally wounding [Hall],” reports CBSN. The 23 year old man died on June 2nd, 2019.

According to CBSN, the police claimed that “their body cam shows a different story, that Hall charged at them,” however, John Burris attorney of the Hall family said that Hall was attempting to run away, “if he had run and swung at [the officers] that’s one thing, but [Hall] didn’t do that , he was running by them, and you don’t get to shoot somebody who is running away unless they have committed a deadly offense or a serious felony.”

In reference to the officers conduct Burris said, “If you know that a person is menatlly impaired, which [the officers] had every reason to believe [Hall was], then the last thing you do is to shout and scream orders because that will only aggravate the situation.” Under state law, officers are required to get at least eight hours of crisis intervention training. The WCPD said that their officers have received that training but it was not executed while dealing with Hall.  In that training, they are said to learn things such as de-escalation which is a way of trying to calm down the person. For example, keeping a safe distance from the person, letting them vent during their crisis, and using a “mirroring” tactic to validate the person’s emotions and feelings. De-escalation is a big part of dealing with people in mental crisis, because they could have unexpected reactions to force or intervention. Things can escalate quickly if the officers do not act in the correct manner–which is exactly happened in to Miles Hall.

  Taun Hall, Hall’s mother, was the first to speak to council about how she had continuously spoken to police in the past year in regards to her son’s declining mental condition as well as how she had kept neighbors informed of the situation. She said, “I would say that we should have a different way to seek help for when our loved one is escalated so we can reach out, like another agency that deals with mental health.” Then, around six weeks after the shooting his family along with supporters “went to city hall to demand reforms and transparent investigation into Miles Hall’s death,” says John King with the SF Chronicle.  Taun Hall said in an interview, “They [the officers] should try and de-escalate the situation, they came in there yelling at him and making the situation worse, while if they had used their training and known mental health, they would know that you shouldn’t yell at them to try and de-escalate the person. You say their name, you ask about things they like. I know it was very fast moving, there was a lot happening but still… just let him run by, he wasn’t attacking them [the officers] with anything. They don’t need to be so reactive, they could’ve maybe stopped and taken their time, but they rushed.”  Sadly, for Miles Hall, the officers did not focus on the de-escalation of the situation, they caused things to escalate quickly by shooting, which led to Halls’ death.

 The moment that Burris was speaking about, where Miles Hall runs past the police, can be seen on a Youtube video posted by the Walnut Creek Police Department. This video also contains the previous phone calls made by Hall’s mother in which she warns that he has mental health issues. This is not the first time something like this occured. “In a report from the San Francisco public radio KQED in 2014 showed that almost 60 percent of people killed by police in San Francisco between 2005 and 2013 had a mental illness that ‘was a contributing factor in the incident.’…In 2015 and 2016 combined, nearly 500 people with mental illness were fatally shot by the police, according to calculations by the Washington Post. This means that for each of those years, one in four police shootings was of a person with mental illness. Other analyses have arrived at similar numbers.”(Vox News). Due to these serious trends and the tragic death of Miles Hall, Taun Hall and fellow supporters plan to go to the city council and attempt to get the Walnut Creek Police more training hours to be able to deal with mental health situations better.