The Contra Costa County District Attorney's Office has charged county sheriff's Deputy Andrew Hall with felony counts of voluntary manslaughter and assault with a semiautomatic weapon for fatally shooting Laudemer Arboleda during a police response in downtown Danville in November 2018.
District Attorney Diana Becton announced the charges during a press conference Wednesday afternoon after her office completed its nearly 2-1/2-year investigation into Arboleda's death -- and in that time, Hall was cleared to return to duty and then involved in another fatal shooting in Danville last month.
"Officer Hall used unreasonable and unnecessary force when he responded to the in-progress traffic pursuit involving Laudemer Arboleda, endangering not only Mr. Arboleda's life but the lives of his fellow officers and citizens in the immediate area," Becton said in a statement.
"We in law enforcement must conduct ourselves in a professional and lawful manner when interacting with the public. Officer Hall's actions underscore the need for a continued focus on de-escalation training and improved coordinated responses to individuals suffering from mental illness," Becton added.
Hall, a Contra Costa County Sheriff's Office deputy assigned to the Danville Police Department beat, is out of custody but an arrest warrant has been issued with a bail set at $220,000, Becton said early Wednesday afternoon.
This is the first time in county history that the DA's office has filed criminal charges against a police officer for their actions during a shooting, according to Becton. If convicted, Hall faces up to 20-plus years in prison and would be barred from working in law enforcement ever again.
Attorney Harry Stern, who represents Hall, claims that the charges are unfounded and politically motivated.
"It is my understanding that the Contra Costa County District Attorney's Office originally deemed deputy Hall's use of force as justified given the fact that he was defending himself from a lethal threat. The timing of their sudden reversal in deciding to file charges seems suspect and overtly political," Stern said in a written statement.
"We will vigorously defend deputy Hall and also fight to ensure his constitutional right to due process in this environment," added Stern, from the law firm Rains Lucia Stern St. Phalle & Silver, based in San Francisco.
Arboleda's mother filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the town and sheriff's office, arguing the fatal shooting was unjustified given the circumstances of the incident, including that Arboleda was experiencing a mental health crisis.
Oakland civil rights attorney John Burris, which represents Arboleda's family, condemned the sheriff's office for the poor de-escalation training that led to Arboleda's death, adding that lengthy investigation and delay in charging Hall directly contributed to another fatal police shooting two years later.
"This is a prime example of poorly trained and negligently supervised officers ignoring common sense and shooting at a moving car," Burris said in a statement. "Mr. Arboleda had committed no crime when the police began pursuing him, and from all appearances, it seems his only crime was being the wrong skin color in Danville."
Danville Police Chief Allan Shields declined to comment Wednesday, deferring to the sheriff's office, which did not respond requests for comment. The town of Danville contracts with the county sheriff for police services. Contra Costa County Sheriff David Livingston previously argued that Hall acted appropriately, saying Arboleda drove at Hall, threatening his safety and others.
Hall shot Arboleda nine times at close range while the 33-year-old Newark man tried to drive slowly around police vehicles attempting to block his path in downtown Danville on Nov. 3, 2018.
In the moments prior to the shooting, Danville police officers were responding to a call that a man later identified as Arboleda rang the doorbell of a resident at Cottage Place and was lingering in the area, before eventually leaving in a 2014 silver Honda, according to the DA's office.
A short pursuit ensued, where twice Arboleda pulled over only to continue driving when officers got out of their cars, according to prosecutors.
DA officials said Hall -- who was not involved in the initial pursuit -- stopped his vehicle in front of the pursuit, leading Arboleda to attempt to "slowly maneuver between Officer Hall's vehicle and another police vehicle involved in the pursuit. Officer Hall ran around the rear of his vehicle and fired his semiautomatic pistol at Mr. Arboleda."
The sheriff's office would later release a video of Arboleda's death, which included Hall and other responding officers' body camera footage.
Arboleda was taken to San Ramon Valley Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead from his injuries at 11:44 a.m. that day.
When asked at Wednesday's press conference why her office is pursuing manslaughter as opposed to murder charges, Becton said that "murder requires that there be malice of forethought, which we do not believe can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt."
As to why the charges took nearly three years to materialize, Becton said that a backlog of "law enforcement involved fatalities" prevented her office from thoroughly investigating the case until this point, but a new team-based system -- 10 attorneys investigated this case -- has allowed the backlog to be reduced.
"The filing of this case took time; it took time due to the backlog of prior law enforcement involved fatal incidents my office is investigating. I am doing everything I can to end this backlog and make sure that our independent investigations come through in an expeditious manner," Becton said.
"Last year I completely retooled my office's approach to investigating these complex and sensitive incidents. I have instilled a new team approach to these investigations to ensure that they are independent and to ensure that we are through," added Becton, who is a former Contra Costa County Superior Court judge.
Becton said that due to the new team-based approach, future law enforcement-related fatalities will be investigated at a quicker pace. The Hall case will be prosecuted by assistant DA Christopher Walpole and deputy DA Colleen Gleason.
Hall, who was cleared to return to duty at some point after the 2018 shooting, is the same Danville police officer who shot Tyrell Wilson at the Sycamore Valley Road-Camino Ramon intersection on March 11. Wilson, a 32-year-old homeless man, died at a local hospital days later.
These were the only police shootings of any kind in the town of Danville since 2001.
Burris, who also represents Wilson's family, said Wednesday, "In this instance, the delay in prosecuting Hall is particularly hurtful because Hall recently shot and killed a homeless man, Tyrell Wilson, under very questionable circumstances. Wilson could be alive if Hall were prosecuted earlier."
Earlier in the afternoon on Wednesday sheriff's office released a series of videos showing the shooting death of Wilson.
The Wilson case remains under investigation by the DA's office.
"The video and witness accounts show this was a cold murder. Wilson never had a chance," Burris said. "Hall initiated the contact. He made no effort to de-escalate, he seemed hell-bent on bringing Wilson under control as if he were roping an uncooperative steer."
During a separate news conference shortly after Becton's announcement, Danville Mayor Renee Morgan read a statement on behalf of the entire Town Council, saying the town supports the need for transparency with the case and called for increased services for residents facing mental health crises.
"Since the town of Danville incorporated in 1982, police services have been provided through a contract with the Contra Costa Sheriff's Office. This has been a positive relationship that has delivered a high level of service and helped strengthen relationships with the community," Morgan said on behalf of the council.
"We regret the two tragic incidents that resulted in the losses of both Laudemer Arboledo (sic) and Tyrell Wilson. Our thoughts are with the families and friends of these men," Morgan added. (The mayor mispronounced Arboleda's name, in line with the misspelling featured in the written statement released publicly afterward.)
"We also see the importance of finding ways to better serve individuals and their families that may be suffering from mental health challenges and are committed to being part of a process that identifies solutions that can incorporate immediate localized emergency response for individuals in mental health crisis," Morgan said. "We will continue to advocate for such services at the state, county, and local level. Our hope is that moving forward from these incidents, we will be able to build a better methodology in handling these issues within our community."