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Parents sue state police and DA over fatal shooting of their son

By Ray Sanchez and Jennifer Henderson, CNN

The parents of a 19-year-old man who was fatally shot by Pennsylvania state troopers have filed a wrongful death lawsuit, accusing troopers and two local prosecutors of attempting to “coverup” evidence the young man was pointing a pellet gun in the air when he was killed.

Citing police statements at the time, lawyers for the parents say Christian Hall was having a mental health emergency on December 30, 2020, when he was shot on an interstate overpass in Monroe County following a 90-minute standoff that was captured on video.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in the US District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, accuses state police officials — including Commissioner Robert Evanchick — and prosecutors of protecting the troopers by intentionally misleading the public about details of the shooting.

Hall was standing in what the lawsuit called “the universal stance of surrender” — with the gun pointed in the air — when he was fatally shot. The lawsuit includes still images of Hall appearing to have his hands up at an angle as troopers pointed guns at him from behind their vehicle.

The Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) declined to comment on pending litigation.

Monroe County District Attorney David Christian and Michael Mancuso, First Assistant District Attorney, are also named in the lawsuit.

The state police statement issued the day of the shooting — included in the lawsuit — said Hall “retrieved the firearm and began walking towards the Troopers. At which time, Hall pointed the firearm in the Troopers direction. As a result, Troopers fired striking Hall.”

The lawsuit said a video and audio recording of the shooting “was redacted and pixelated” and “misleads the viewer into believing that … Christian pointed the perceived handgun at Troopers while advancing on Troopers.” Hall family attorney Devon Jacob subpoenaed unedited video of the encounter from the state police.

The unredacted video obtained by Hall family attorneys shows the young man “kept his hands in the air even while bullets were impacting his body” and provides “undisputed evidence” of an attempt to “coverup the unlawfulness of the homicide,” according to the lawsuit.

Mancuso, in a statement, said the lawsuit failed to state a valid claim against prosecutors.

“The circumstances surrounding the use of deadly force demonstrate that such force was justified under the circumstances known to the officers,” Mancuso said.

“The attempts by the attorneys to mislead the public and now the filing of a frivolous suit against the DA’s Office is yet another example that they are motivated not by the pursuit of justice but the allure of monetary gain,” he added.

Mancuso said the DA conducted an “independent investigation” into the shooting and the state police’s own probe “did not interfere or impede the DA’s investigation.” The statement called Hall’s death a “tragic incident” that “was not due to the unjustified use of deadly force by law enforcement.”

Attorneys Ben Crump and Jacob, who are representing Hall’s parents, Gareth and Fe, said in a statement: “What happened to Christian and his parents is not excusable. Government should always be accountable to the people.”

The lawsuit said the state police issued a “false statement” intended “to thwart public oversight and pressure” and “undermine the homicide investigation.” The suit also said local prosecutors created a misleading PowerPoint presentation “to support the PSP’s factually incorrect statement.”

In November, CNN reviewed the unedited video — provided by Jacob — and Hall is not seen pointing his weapon at police, as state police stated in their December 2020 statement, before troopers fired on him. The state police did not respond to a request for comment at the time.

Hall does, as police and the DA’s office described, ignore dozens of police orders to drop his weapon.

After what appears to be warning shots fired by one of the officers, “Hall then raises the gun outward toward his side and then upwards by bending his elbow at a ninety-degree angle,” according to the DA’s report, CNN reported in November.

“After ignoring further commands to drop the gun, both Corporal #1 and Trooper #1 fire a total of approximately eight shots striking Hall who falls to the roadway,” the DA’s report stated.

The edited version of the video released by the DA’s office in March blurred the moment of Hall’s death, but his physical gestures and actions appeared to be accurately reflected in their report, according to CNN’s review.

The troopers were responding to “a report of a distraught and suicidal male” standing on a bridge in Hamilton Township.

“If he doesn’t drop it, just take him,” the lawsuit quoted one of the troopers as saying.

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