(CN) --- A Bay Area sheriff’s deputy was charged with manslaughter Wednesday for the 2018 shooting of a mentally ill Filipino man in a small town about 30 miles east of San Francisco.
Contra Costa County sheriff’s deputy Andrew Hall shot 33-year-old Laudemer Arboleda nine times on Nov. 3, 2018, as Arboleda erratically drove a Silver Honda away from the police cars chasing him in the East Bay town of Danville.
Hall has been on paid leave after a separate incident in which he fatally shot a homeless Black man, 33-year-old Tyrell Wilson, in Danville on March 11.
“Our office for the first time in recent history has filed criminal charges against a police officer for their actions during a shooting,” Contra Costa County District Attorney Diana Becton said during a press conference Wednesday.
The felony charges were announced one day after a jury found Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin guilty of murder in the death of George Floyd last May, an outcome that has reverberated across the nation and amplified calls to hold police accountable for using excessive deadly force against people of color.
In an emailed statement, Hall’s attorney Harry Stern claimed the district attorney’s office had “originally deemed” Hall’s use of force justified because he was “defending himself from a legal threat.” He called the timing of the district attorney's "sudden reversal” in deciding to file charges “suspect and overtly political.”
A spokesman for the DA’s office denied that a decision had been made previously to not prosecute.
“We will vigorously defend Deputy Hall and also fight to ensure his constitutional right to due process in this environment,” Stern said.
Hall was charged with voluntary manslaughter, assault with a semi-automatic weapon and enhancements for personal use of a firearm and unlawful activity causing great bodily injury.
If convicted, he could serve up to 22 years in state prison and be banned from serving as a police officer in California.
The November 2018 incident started at around 11 a.m. when police received calls about a suspicious person randomly knocking on doors on a quiet street in Danville. When police caught up with Arboleda, they said he ignored their commands, drove away and committed multiple traffic violations as they pursued him.
Police said Arboleda was trying to “run down” Hall when the shooting occurred, but a video shows Hall exiting his squad car and stepping into the path of Arboleda’s vehicle before unloading nine bullets at the driver.
An internal investigation by the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office previously cleared Hall of any wrongdoing, finding he and his fellow officers did not violate sheriff’s department policies. The sheriff's office has a contract to provide policing services for the town.
Arboleda’s family reported that his mental health was deteriorating in the years leading up to his death. He started putting duct tape on his head, wrapping himself in plastic, covering windows with cardboard, sprinkling salt to “ward off evil sprits” and writing strange messages to neighbors near his mother’s home in Newark where he lived, according to a San Francisco Chronicle investigation.
“The unnecessary death of Mr. Arboleda underscores the need for law enforcement personnel to better understand those who are suffering from mental illness,” Becton said on Wednesday.
Becton’s office investigated the Arboleda shooting for two and a half years before filing charges Wednesday. Arboleda’s mother, Jeannie Atienza, told the Chronicle this week that the shooting death of Tyrese Wilson last month might not have happened had Hall had been charged with a crime sooner.
Wilson’s family filed a federal civil rights suit against Hall and the town of Danville on April 5. It follows a previous wrongful death suit filed against the town and Hall by Arboleda's mother in 2019. A jury trial is scheduled to start in that case on Dec. 6. Civil rights attorney John Burris represents both families.
Becton, a criminal justice reform advocate and former state judge, was appointed district attorney of Contra Costa County in 2017 and elected to a four-year term in 2018. She joined three other reform-minded prosecutors last year to form the Prosecutors Alliance of California. That organization aims to counter the power of traditional law enforcement groups like the California District Attorneys Association, which tend to support tough-on-crime policies and oppose certain reform efforts, such as reducing or eliminating mandatory sentences.
Becton is the third Bay Area district attorney to prosecute a police officer for shooting a civilian over the last seven months. This past September, Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley charged a San Leandro police officer with manslaughter for fatally shooting a Black man at a Walmart store in April 2020. San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin followed in November by prosecuting a former officer for shooting and killing a carjacking suspect in 2017. Boudin has also filed charges against two other officers in San Francisco for on-duty behavior.Follow @NicholasIovino
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