July 9, 2021
California State Attorney General
450 Golden Gate Ave., Ste 11000
San Francisco, CA 94102
Dear Attorney General Bonta:
We are writing to request that you review the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s recent decision not to charge officers in the killing of our son, Miles Hall in Walnut Creek, CA on June 2, 2019.
On June 2, 2019, Walnut Creek police officers responded to a call regarding our son, who was in the throes of a delusional episode, a symptom of the schizoaffective disorder from which he suffered. The Walnut Creek Police Department (WCPD) was aware that Miles suffered from a mental illness and had responded to similar calls for support in the past, without incident.
In the past, the WCPD had engaged Miles effectively and humanely, assigning him a resource officer, Officer Keagy, and facilitating his receipt of treatment by transporting him to local mental health agencies. In sum, our family had reason to expect that the WCPD police officers who would interact with Miles on June 2, 2019, would act in a manner befitting a scene involving a young man known to suffer from mental illness who was in distress and not threatening anyone.
What unfolded was the antithesis of what our family expected and of what is required by law. When the WCPD arrived on the scene, they chose to escalate the situation, yelling at Miles and pointing lethal weapons at him. Miles was holding a garden tool close to his body and ran past the officers, veering away from them, rather than at them. He neither wielded the garden tool nor made any movements with the tool that were threatening.
The video footage makes clear the fact that Miles' singular objective was to get away from the officers. In fact, the first officer who fired, Officer Melissa Murphy, had to rotate clockwise to her right approximately 90 degrees to shoot Miles as he ran past her. Officer KC Hsiao, who fired next, had to do the same.
There was no one in the area that Miles was running toward, and Miles posed no significant threat of imminent harm to anyone. He was running toward his home, attempting to pass the officers whose drawn weapons and aggressive, loud voices frightened him.
Officer Murphy chose to fire her gun just as Officer Smith first began to discharge bean bag rounds at Miles; in fact, she did so almost instantaneously, seconds after bean bags were first deployed. She ignored her assignment to use a Taser “as appropriate”, choosing instead to end the life of a young man in distress. Miles attempted to run past officers while he felt both the effects of his mental illness—confusion, disorientation, delusion — and the overwhelming and traumatic impact of four officers yelling his name and pointing guns at him.
The officers’ response was untenable in myriad ways. Sergeant Connors’ assertion to her team that she wouldn’t “give this guy a lot of chances” is shocking to the conscience. Sgt. Connors set a tone of wanton disregard for Miles’ life from the inception of the officers’ arrival at the scene. The Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office ‘s investigative report clearly states that Officer Murphy was assigned a Taser during this incident, yet it defends her firing her gun at Miles a mere two seconds after bean bags were first fired. Only Mental Health Resource Officer Tammy Keagy, who rushed to the scene as gunshots were deployed, had a Taser in her hand that day.
Of note, the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s investigative report appears to rely on interviews conducted during former lead investigator Barry Grove’s tenure, despite his removal from the case. Given Mr. Grove’s history of racially insensitive perspectives and racially charged statements, this fact alone is cause for concern. See the following East Bay Express article for more information: https://eastbayexpress.com/coco-county-das-facebook-posts-suggest-bias-1
In fact, we are joined by multiple community organizations and innumerable community members from across the Bay Area and beyond, that are deeply troubled by this case. Miles' case has inspired a statewide bill, AB 988, The Miles Hall Lifeline Act, that will establish a phone number that people in crisis can call, rather than calling 911.
It has also spurred the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors to commit to constructing a crisis response system that will deploy mental health care experts, rather than police officers, to those in need of care-- called The Miles Hall Community Crisis Hub. Miles' death at the hands of officers has inspired significant change for the community, but it has not yet resulted in an objective and thorough review of the case that is at the heart of the discourse.
In sum, our son was killed while he was at his most vulnerable and was threatening nobody. We feel strongly that the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s report was an abuse of the Office’s discretion in that it sanctions a killing that was unjustified and reckless. We strongly urge you to examine this case and give it the objective review that it should command.
Thank you for your attention to this matter. Please reply to us at your earliest convenience.
Taun and Scott Hall
Miles’ parents and founders of The Miles Hall Foundation
cc: Friends of Scott, Alexis and Taun Hall (FOSATH) and our partner, NAMI Contra Costa