This article is shared with LebTown by content partner Spotlight PA.
By Gary Harki of Spotlight PA and Danielle Ohl of Spotlight PA
HARRISBURG — The parents of a Chinese American teenager fatally shot by Pennsylvania State Police filed a federal lawsuit on Wednesday against the troopers involved and the local district attorney’s office, alleging authorities tried to “cover up the unlawfulness” of the killing by making misleading statements and refusing to release the full video of the incident.
Video recorded by the State Police and obtained by Spotlight PA and NBC News revealed in November that Hall kept his hands in the air above his head while troopers fired at him.
The lawsuit claims troopers used excessive force, killing Hall as he tried to surrender and after they said they would not shoot him. Devon Jacob and Ben Crump, the Hall family’s attorneys, also allege that the Monroe County district attorney and his deputy misled the public by showing an edited version of the video and claiming Hall pointed what turned out to be a pellet gun at troopers.
The suit — filed Wednesday in federal court — names individual troopers, Monroe County, and State Police Superintendent Robert Evanchik as defendants.
The Monroe County DA’s office previously defended its investigation and actions to Spotlight PA. Evanchick, the State Police commissioner, declined a request to be interviewed last year, and his department declined to comment at the time because of pending litigation.
“What happened to Christian and his parents is not excusable,” said Jacob and Crump, who also represented the family of George Floyd, whose killing in May 2020 sparked a national outcry. “Just like George Floyd’s unlawful homicide, the involved Troopers who committed this unlawful homicide took time to deliberate before they decided to end Christian Hall’s life. We obtained justice for George Floyd and we will obtain justice for Christian Hall.”
On the afternoon of Dec. 30, 2020, Hall called 911 about a “possible suicider” on an Interstate 80 overpass in the Poconos. Hall, 19, had been upset about his former girlfriend. Another man had apparently threatened to kill himself over her, Christian’s father, Gareth Hall, said.
Christian Hall posted a picture on Snapchat of the overpass with the text “who would miss me,” according to a report released by the DA’s office.
When State Police troopers arrived a short time later, they found Hall on the overpass’ concrete ledge looking down. In his hand was a pellet gun, which troopers believed to be real. State Police video shows troopers talking to Hall, trying to get him to put down the gun and walk toward them.
After about 90 minutes, Hall moved toward the troopers with the pellet gun in his hand, arms at his sides. Huddled behind their vehicles about 70 feet away, troopers again told him to drop the gun.
The video obtained by Spotlight PA and NBC News from Jacob and Crump shows Hall raising his hands after a trooper fired initial shots, which missed him. Hall first raised his hands to his sides, then above his head, holding the gun in one hand, the video shows.
“If he doesn’t drop it just take him,” a voice can be heard saying on the video.
Hall’s hands stayed above his head as a corporal and another trooper fired several more shots. Hall was struck, clutched his stomach, and fell to the ground.
The video does not appear to show Hall pointing the gun directly at troopers before he was shot.
In the lawsuit, the Hall family claims that the initial State Police press release on the shooting, which states Hall pointed the gun at troopers before shots were fired, was intentionally misleading. Troopers “did so with the intent to thwart public oversight” and to pressure Hall’s parents, Fe and Gareth, not to file a lawsuit, it states.
In Pennsylvania, local district attorneys investigate police shootings unless they recuse themselves and send the case to the state attorney general. In this case, Monroe County District Attorney E. David Christine Jr. and his assistant Michael Mancuso investigated the killing along with the State Police.
Gareth and Fe Hall publicly called for Christine to send the case to the attorney general and later criticized him for not doing so. The lawsuit alleges Christine and Mancuso retaliated against the Hall family by not answering questions or explaining their decisions.
Crump and Jacob, the family’s lawyers, also allege that the district attorney’s office used portions of the video in a presentation shown at a March 2021 press conference in a way that misled the public.
At that press conference, Mancuso announced that no troopers would be charged for the killing and said Hall was an imminent threat from the moment he put his hand on the gun.
“Frankly, it’s a testament to the troopers that they didn’t shoot sooner,” Mancuso said during the press conference.
He mimicked Hall pulling the gun out of his waistband and raising it in the air, and said Hall “played with it in this way and at some point kind of moved the muzzle over in the direction of the troopers then raised it upward.”
The lawsuit asks for compensation for violations of the family’s legal rights, Hall’s death, pain and suffering, other damages, and attorney’s fees but does not list a specific amount.
Fe Hall said she is glad the lawsuit has been filed and that she continues to struggle with the loss of her son.
“I do not have the strength to read about my son that way, about how his life was taken that way,” she said of the lawsuit. “I just refuse to look at any more videos. … I just refuse to see the last moment.”
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