In a brutal execution-style killing captured on video in July 2012, eight Saginaw police officers took the life of Milton Hall, a 49-year-old, African American, mentally ill homeless man. Mr. Hall found himself alone in the middle of an empty parking lot after a verbal altercation with a store clerk. Police were summoned to respond to his erratic behavior.
After the officers formed a semi-circle around Mr. Hall, they continued to give him a very wide berth—far beyond Hall’s reach. Six officers raised rifles and aimed them in Mr. Hall’s direction. Another officer held the leash of a police dog that was allowed to bark and snap at Hall. When Mr. Hall displayed and waved a small pen knife, the officers shot 46 bullets at him, continuing to shoot even after he had collapsed. The entire incident was captured by the officers’ dashboard cameras and by video footage taken by civilians.
After the Saginaw County prosecutor’s office declined to bring criminal charges against the police officers, the U.S. Department of Justice launched an investigation. However, in February 2014 the Justice Department stated that there was not enough evidence of criminal wrongdoing by the officers to warrant a prosecution under federal civil rights laws.
Deeply disappointed with the decision, the ACLU of Michigan wrote a letter to the Justice Department asking that they reconsider, but this request was unsuccessful. In October 2014 the ACLU appeared before the Organization of American States’ Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to provide oral testimony and written information about the Hall killing. Produced in connection with that appearance was a video featuring the footage of the killing as well as an interview with Mr. Hall’s mother. We are currently researching prospects for bringing this case to the attention of the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Summary Executions.
(ACLU of Michigan Attorneys Mark Fancher and Michael J. Steinberg; National ACLU Attorney Jamil Dakwar.)