DANVILLE, Calif. (AP) — Just past the Village Theatre and a quaint corner chocolate shop is the intersection where Officer Andrew Hall shot and killed a 33-year-old mentally ill man in 2018.
History repeated itself this spring, when Hall fired his gun and killed another 33-year-old mentally ill man on the streets of this wealthy San Francisco suburb.
The Town of Danville is not accustomed to gun violence. This well-manicured place of multimillion-dollar homes regularly tops lists of the safest and wealthiest places to live in California. The two fatal shootings by the same officer in a 2 1/2-year span have now cast a spotlight on Danville, where criminal justice activists say the wheels of justice turned far too slowly and had deadly consequences.
Many of the questions residents are posing at Danville town council meetings and in emotionally charged neighborhood conversations echo those America is asking of policing nationwide. Was the officer’s use of deadly force justified or excessive?
Was the officer held accountable? Did racism play a role when Hall, who is white, shot nine bullets into Laudemer Arboleda, an unarmed Filipino man, in 2018, or when he fired a single shot to the head of Tyrell Wilson, a Black homeless man?
And then there's the question that haunts both men's families: Would Wilson be alive today if the criminal justice system had moved faster?
Around lunchtime on March 11, Wilson was holding a bag from Lucky Supermarket and about to cross a busy intersection when Hall shouted to him.
“Hey buddy. Come here for real quick,” the officer yelled. The intersection was empty of cars, and Wilson cut diagonally through it to avoid Hall.
Seconds earlier, Hall had pulled up in his patrol car, responding to three 911 calls the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office said it received about a person throwing rocks off a nearby overpass. The Associated Press reconstructed the encounter, and earlier incidents, through police video footage, interviews and documents including investigation transcripts obtained through public record requests. The Danville police chief, the Contra Costa County sheriff, the county's district attorney and Hall's lawyer declined to be interviewed for this story.
It remains unclear if Wilson was the person throwing rocks, but Hall assumed he was.
“You’re jaywalking. You’re throwing rocks,” Hall said.
Wilson was apparently familiar to Danville police and many in the community as one of the few homeless people, and one of very few Black men, in the town of 45,000. He slept on a bus stop bench in a parking lot; that was the direction Wilson headed as he walked away.
As a boy growing up in a middle-class neighborhood in Riverside, Orange County, Wilson had a promising future, his parents said. He was a good student and excelled at sports, especially track and football; he made the varsity football team as a sophomore.
He was handsome and a bit shy, with “big brown puppy eyes,” said his father, Marvin Wilson, a retired correctional officer with the Orange County sheriff's department. As a child he wanted to be “a fireman and a preacher, because he said he wanted to save lives and save souls,” his mother, Diane, a retired postal worker, recalled.
But everything changed after a tragic car crash in high school. Wilson and a friend headed one winter afternoon to Big Bear Mountain, about an hour’s drive, to go snowboarding, and on the way got hit head-on by a semi truck, his father said. His friend died and Wilson was hospitalized with serious head injuries. After that, he lost his motivation for school, lost his passion for sports. “He lost his joy,” his mother said. As an adult, “he just could never stay on track,” his father said.