(CN) — A Bay Area county will pay nearly $5 million to settle a civil rights suit over the fatal shooting of a mentally ill Filipino man by a sheriff’s deputy who was convicted this week of assault for his role in the deadly encounter.
The announcement of a settlement between Contra Costa County and the mother of 33-year-old Laudemer Arboleda comes one day after a jury on Tuesday found sheriff’s deputy Andrew Hall guilty of assault but deadlocked on the charge of manslaughter.
Police said Arboleda, who was driving six miles per hour, was trying to “run down” Hall when the shooting occurred in the sleepy East Bay town of Danville on Nov. 3, 2018. But Arboleda’s mother and Contra Costa County prosecutors said Hall put himself in danger by stepping in front of Arboleda’s silver Honda before he unloaded 10 rounds at the driver. Arboleda died after nine bullets entered his body.
The incident occurred after Arboleda, who has a history of mental illness, led police on a slow-speed chase through the town. Police were responding to reports that a suspicious person was randomly knocking on doors on a quiet street.
Attorney John Burris, who represents Arboleda’s mother, Jeannie Atienza, said the family was disappointed in the jury's failure to convict Hall for manslaughter, but he said getting any charges to stick against an officer accused of excessive deadly force is rare.
“To me the glass is half full as opposed to half empty because it’s very difficult to get a conviction against a police officer,” Burris said.
The civil rights lawyer said Arboleda’s family wants prosecutors to retry Hall on the manslaughter charge. Contra Costa District Attorney Diana Becton, a member of the progressive Prosecutors Alliance of California, said her office will take that matter under review and determine its next steps.
In a statement Tuesday, Becton said the assault conviction holds Hall accountable.
“Deputy Hall’s actions were not only a crime, but they tarnished the badge and they harmed the reputation of all the good, hard working police officers that work for our community,” Becton said.
Hall faces up to 17 years in prison for the assault charge with enhancements for personal use of a firearm and unlawful activity causing great bodily injury. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for Jan. 14.
Becton filed charges against Hall on April 21, more than a month after the sheriff’s deputy fatally shot another man, 33-year-old Tyrell Wilson, in Danville on March 11. Wilson, a homeless Black man who reportedly suffered from depression and paranoia, was holding a knife when Hall fatally shot him, but he never lunged at the officer, according to the Associated Press.
Burris, who also represents Wilson’s family in a separate lawsuit against the county, said Wilson would probably still be alive today had Hall been prosecuted for the Arboleda shooting a few weeks earlier.
A jury trial in the civil lawsuit over Arboleda’s death was set to begin on Dec. 6. That trial date is expected to be vacated soon following the announcement of the $4.9 million settlement.
Burris said he believes the settlement is fair, even though no dollar figure will ever adequately compensate Atienza for the tragic death of her son.
“The amount itself can certainly not do justice for the loss of life and the pain that the family feels,” Burris said. “Money is the only mechanism that you have, but it is not a good mechanism when you figure that a life was lost undeservedly so.”
Burris said he hopes the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office will implement changes to properly train its officers on a new police use-of-force standard put in place by California lawmakers in 2019, which raises the bar for using deadly force from “reasonable” to “necessary.”
Burris said the sheriff’s office command staff must also hold officers accountable for their conduct and not blindly take their side in cases where deputies use excessive force. An internal investigation by the sheriff’s department previously cleared Hall of wrongdoing, finding he violated no sheriff’s department policies when he fired at Arboleda as he drove 6 miles per hour.
“This case might symbolize that in the long run the general population will be more critical of officer-involved shootings,” Burris said. “Here we did get half of a conviction, and I think that’s progress.”
The Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office and Hall’s attorney, Harry Stern, did not immediately return phone calls requesting comment Wednesday.
Burris said he was told the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors approved the $4.9 million settlement at its Oct. 19 meeting, but Mary Ann Mason of the county counsel’s office said the board merely authorized the county to negotiate the settlement. The deal must still be approved by the board before it becomes final, she said.
District Attorney Becton has not yet decided whether to press charges against Hall for the March 11 shooting of Tyrell Wilson, and a civil lawsuit filed against the county by Wilson’s family remains pending.Follow @NicholasIovino
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