Newly released surveillance video from inside a California convenience store appears to show several police officers surrounding a legally blind and mentally ill man before abruptly gunning him down without provocation. Although the police initially claimed the disabled man lunged at the officers with a weapon, the footage does not corroborate with the official version of events.
According to the police report, the Fontana Police Department received a 911 call from a convenience store clerk reporting a possible robbery in progress at approximately 4:15 a.m. on November 22, 2015. Upon arrival, officers located James Hall, 47, in front of the store allegedly holding a knife in one hand and a large rock in the other.
In the newly released surveillance video, several officers followed Hall into the store before discharging a weapon and releasing a K9 unit. Although Hall seemed to be holding a rock in one hand, the grainy video does not clearly show if he was carrying a knife and at times he appeared empty-handed.
While attempting to talk Hall into surrendering, the officers claimed that “he advanced on officers and an officer involved shooting occurred.” But according to the video, Hall had been leaning against a counter when the police suddenly opened fire.
Legally blind and diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, Hall was pronounced dead at the scene. In 2010, the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office reportedly awarded Hall with a Citizen Citation for assisting in the rescue of a 4-year-old autistic child.
“In order to maintain the integrity of the investigation, review process, and pending litigation, the Fontana Police Department will not provide any additional details at this time,” the Fontana Police Department wrote in a statement released on Thursday. “With this said, we can all recognize this was a tragic and unfortunate event for everyone involved. As such, our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and anyone impacted by this incident. We have every confidence in the investigative process and await the conclusion.”
“It’s a disturbing video indictment of the officers,” attorney Mark Geragos, whose firm is representing Hall’s relatives, told The Los Angeles Times. “The video puts the lie to the obviously falsified police account of what happened. In fact, this was an execution.”
Last month, Hall’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the City of Fontana and its police department alleging that law enforcement knew of Hall’s mental disorder and had even awarded him years earlier for helping in the rescue of an autistic child. The suit also questions how Hall could have been engaged in a robbery if police found him standing outside the store.
On Wednesday, attorneys representing Hall’s family released the surveillance footage depicting the fatal shooting. Due to the fact that the video appears to contradict the initial police report, Hall’s family decided to release the footage in order to reveal that he did not lunge at any officers in the moments before his death.
Although the fatal shooting remains under investigation, no officers currently face criminal charges for Hall’s death.