The family of Tyrell Wilson, who was fatally shot by a Danville police officer last month, are suing the town government in federal court, claiming that not only was the killing unjust but that it was committed "with deliberation and premeditation."
After releasing a cellphone video from a witness that showed the March 11 shooting from across the intersection, the family's attorney on Tuesday refuted claims police made about Wilson's death, stating that the officer's account is disputed by "multiple eyewitnesses."
"The video and witness accounts show this was a cold murder. Wilson never had a chance," said Oakland civil rights attorney John Burris, the family's representative.
The town of Danville, which contracts with the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Office for police services, deferred comment about the federal civil rights lawsuit to the sheriff's office, which did not respond to inquiries on Tuesday.
Wilson, a 32-year-old Black man living outdoors near Interstate 680 in Danville, was shot by Danville police Officer Andrew Hall at the intersection of Sycamore Valley Road and Camino Ramon on March 11.
Wilson, who was mentally impaired with schizophrenia, was not attended to by paramedics for more than 20 minutes after being shot in the face, according to Burris. Wilson died from his injuries at an area hospital on March 17.
Hall, who has been placed on paid administrative leave at this point in the investigation, is employed as a sheriff's deputy and assigned to the Danville Police Department under the town's contract with the county sheriff. This marked the second on-duty fatal shooting for Hall in the past 2-1/2 years.
The circumstances leading up to Wilson's death remain under dispute.
According to the sheriff's office, Hall was responding to reports that an unidentified person was throwing rocks from the Sycamore Valley Road overpass onto the freeway and approached Wilson who was roughly in the area where the reports came from, deeming the homeless man to be the suspect.
Sheriff's officials said Wilson pulled out a folding knife when approached by the officer and did not put it down when told to do so. Hall reported that he opened fire, hitting Wilson once, after the 32-year-old approached him knife-in-hand.
Wilson's family has challenged the police's version of the events.
"Hall initiated the contact. He made no effort to deescalate; he seemed 'hell-bent' on bringing Wilson under control as if he were roping an uncooperative steer ... equally disturbing with the shooting was the utter lack of urgency in providing medical care. Mr. Wilson laid mortally wounded in the street for 25 minutes before paramedics arrived. Neither Hall nor any other law enforcement personnel made any attempts to provide CPR before the medic(s) arrived," Burris added.
In a civil complaint filed on the family's behalf, Burris refutes claims made by police, saying that Wilson was walking back to his home in an encampment near the intersection when approached by Hall and that no proof exists Wilson was the one throwing rocks onto I-680 nor that Wilson was acting aggressively.
While acknowledging that Wilson was holding a knife at the time of the shooting, the complaint argues that according to video evidence, Wilson did not make any threatening movements toward Officer Hall.
"Defendant Hall had ample time for deliberation and premeditation. Defendant Hall had obvious areas of safety and redeployment in the event Mr. Wilson actually did something threatening with the knife. Instead of protecting life, defendant Hall murdered Mr. Wilson, with malice aforethought," the lawsuit contends.
Burris also claimed that no police officers tended to Wilson's injury after he was shot and that eyewitnesses said nearly 25 minutes passed after the shooting before an ambulance arrived to treat him.
Wilson died in a hospital six days later.
This week, Burris' office released a 46-second video of the shooting, captured from across the intersection by an anonymous eyewitness, that shows the seconds before and after Wilson was shot.
"I've watched the video myself; I didn't want anybody else telling me what happened. You do not walk that close to a person with your gun drawn and aimed at their head the whole time," Marvin Wilson, Tyrell Wilson's father, said during a press conference held Tuesday at the Sycamore Valley Park and Ride, near where Wilson had been living.
"The police are supposed to protect everybody, even the homeless, they are supposed to protect everybody. Not just walk up to people and perform an execution," added Marvin Wilson, a retired sheriff's deputy in Southern California.
The lawsuit cites as defendants Hall, the town of Danville and Danville Police Chief Allan Shields. The sheriff's office has not been included in the civil case to date.
At Tuesday's press conference, attorneys said they will be seeking for Hall to be fired and prosecuted for the killing of Wilson. They also vowed to call for the removal of Contra Costa District Attorney Diana Becton if she fails to prosecute Hall.
Hall, who has worked as a sworn law enforcement officer for 7-1/2 years, is the same Danville police officer who fatally shot 33-year-old Newark resident Laudemer Arboleda in downtown Danville on Nov. 3, 2018. Hall shot Arboleda at close range while Arboleda tried to drive around police vehicles trying to block his path. Arboleda's family has filed suit over his death, also represented by Burris' firm.
"That shooting was so outrageous that we wrote a letter to the Contra Costa District Attorney asking them to criminally prosecute Hall. They didn't and now he has killed another innocent man. Enough is enough. This officer is a menace," Burris said.
The outcome of the investigation by Becton's office into the Arboleda case is still pending. It was not immediately clear when Hall was cleared to return to full active duty after Arboleda's death.