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California police cornered and gunned down a blind, schizophrenic man

Video shows him cowering in a convenience store.

CREDIT: Los Angeles Times
CREDIT: Los Angeles Times

When police in Fontana, California shot and killed James Hall in 2015, they said the 47-year-old was threatening them with a knife in a convenience store. But new surveillance footage shows Hall, a mentally ill and blind man, cowering behind a shelf when multiple officers cornered him and opened fire.

Video released on Wednesday by the Hall family’s attorney shows a very different version of events from the one offered by police who responded to a possible robbery. According to the official police account, Hall “advanced on officers and an officer-involved shooting occurred.” In reality, Hall was standing near the store entrance before five officers and arrived and stood in the door. Four had their weapons drawn, while the fifth held on to a police dog. Then they walked into the store and released the canine, as Hall walked back and forth, ducking behind shelves. Police eventually surrounded him with their guns still drawn.

When police fired their guns, Hall was trying to hide behind a counter. He did not appear to be holding a knife at the time. Once he was on the floor, more than 10 officers, and at least one dog, closed in on his body.

Watch the video here:

“This was an execution,” Mark Geragos, the Hall family’s lawyer, told the Los Angeles Times. “It’s a disturbing video indictment of the officers.”

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The Hall family filed a wrongful death lawsuit in December, which describes the 47-year-old as a “peaceful person, who had previously been awarded for his community service.” The lawsuit all states that Hall was legally blind, schizophrenic, and battled with depression, and notes that the local community was well aware of Hall and his disabilities. Hall, the complaint says, was merely browsing the store, but cops at the scene showed “reckless and callous disregard for the constitutional rights.”

The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department is investigating the shooting. In a statement released Thursday, the Fontana Police Department declined to comment on details of the investigation, including whether or not a knife was found at the scene.

“With this said, we can all recognize this was a tragic and unfortunate event for everyone involved,” the statement said. “As such, our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and anyone impacted by this incident. We have every confidence in the investigative process and await the conclusion.”