The lawyer representing Lavall Hall’s family wrote a letter to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement commissioner on Wednesday, asking for an independent investigation into the shooting death of the 25-year-old man by a Miami Gardens police officer.
The three-paragraph note written by family attorney Glen Goldberg asked Rick Swearingen to “immediately appoint a special prosecutor and/or private independent investigator to obtain additional facts regarding this most distressing shooting.”
Copies of the letter are also being sent to Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
The demand is not likely to be met because the city has already begun an investigation, said Miami Gardens Police Chief Stephen Johnson. The city, like some other agencies in Miami-Dade County, conducts its own investigations into police shootings, then passes those findings on to the state attorney, who ultimately decides if there was police misconduct.
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“We, like most agencies are taking into consideration using FDLE. But in this case it’s not applicable. Unfortunately it’s already under way,” said Johnson of the investigation.
In recent months, the county’s two largest police agencies, Miami and Miami-Dade, have reached agreements to let FDLE investigate police shootings. Those decisions were in part prompted by the civil unrest that followed the police-involved deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri., and Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York.
Hall was shot and killed early Sunday morning half a block from his Miami Gardens home after a confrontation with police officers Peter Ehrlich and Eddo Trimino. Police were called to Hall’s home by his mother, Catherine Daniels, after her son became violent and began swinging a broomstick handle. Hall suffers from bipolar disorder and is schizophrenic. He had been taken by police to the mental ward of a hospital only a week before Sunday’s incident.
Before the shooting, Hall struck the two officers with the metal end of the broomstick, Johnson said. Both officers, the chief said, used their electronic Taser devices on Hall, but that didn’t slow the suspect. When Hall charged at Trimino, police said, the officer fired five times, striking him twice, once in the arm and again in the chest. Both officers required medical attention.
On Tuesday, Johnson initially said he planned to discuss the 911 call Daniels made to police and video taken from the dash cam on one of the patrol cars. Later in the day he changed his mind. But he discussed the case with reporters and defended his officers’ actions, saying “They did the best they could.”
Johnson also said that the shooting death was Trimino’s second since 2013, when he is alleged to have returned gunfire, shooting and killing a murder suspect. The records in that case haven’t been made public.
On Wednesday, Goldberg put pressure on Miami Gardens police to release the audio and video from the shooting. He had several members of Hall’s family at his Brickell office, including Hall’s 8-year-old daughter Aariyah Hall and her mother Melissa Edwards. Hall’s mother and his cousin Walter Pinkis, who has taken on the role of family spokesman, were also there. Also in attendance was Eric Pettus of the NAACP.
Holding Aariyah, Edwards asked: “Do you know what it feels like to have your baby cry and say she’s never going to see her daddy again? Why?”
Reached after the gathering, Johnson said state law prohibits him from releasing any audio or visuals that could be evidence in an investigation into possible police misconduct.
Meanwhile, Pastor Eric Readon of Miami Garden’s New Beginnings Missionary Baptist Church held a prayer gathering Wednesday inside the church and asked for peace.
“It’s just really time to pull the community together because things are getting out of hand,” Readon said. “We want less violence, no killings, less crime and to stop senseless murders.”