Prosecutors will not charge the Miami Gardens police officer who fatally shot Lavall Hall, a 25-year-old mentally ill man who attacked officers with a metal-tipped broomstick in February 2015.
The officer, Eddo Trimino, was justified in using deadly force after a series of confrontations and fistfights that left another officer “bleeding profusely” from a gash to the forehead, according to a report released Thursday night by the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office.
Trimino “fired his service pistol in order to protect his life and that of others,” the report said.
Judd Rosen, one of the civil lawyers for Hall’s family, said he was not surprised because the office of State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle has not charged an officer for an on-duty fatal shooting in decades.
“For the family, this is a tough pill to swallow,” Rosen said. “There was no drugs or alcohol in his system. The family called police for help and they ended up with a dead son.”
Prosecutors noted that Trimino was justified in using deadly force under Florida’s “fleeing felon law,” which allows officers to shoot someone suspected of committing a felony — in this case, an aggravated battery of a police officers.
“We knew from the day it happened that it was a justified shooting,” said Trimino’s union attorney, Andrew Axelrad. “It certainly is an unfortunate incident but he did not have a choice in having to use that force.”
The release of the report comes one day before Miami Gardens, by court order, is supposed to turn over its police files as part of a a federal lawsuit filed against the city.
Hall’s death received widespread attention at a time when tensions have mounted nationally over police shootings, particularly those involving young black men. His family insisted that Miami Gardens police did not have to kill the young man who battled schizophrenia for years.
“I was outraged, furious, devastated and very emotional. They killed him, murdered him,” Melissa Edwards, the mother of Hall’s 8-year-old daughter, told the Miami Herald back in April.
Portions of the incident were captured on dash-cam video released by the family in April. The final report provides more details on the shooting that began when Hall barricaded himself inside his home while wielding the broom. Frightened, she called police, who a week earlier had escorted the schizophrenic Hall to a nearby mental hospital.
That morning, Hall ran from his mother’s home. Officer Peter Ehrlich found him nearby and in the scuffle Hall “struck him multiple times on his head and body” with the broom.
Trimino saw the attack and later said he saw Hall “grab for the right side of Officer Ehrlich’s gun belt.” Trimino revved his car’s engine, spooking Hall to run off.
Moments later, Trimino caught up with him nearby. Another scuffle ensued, the report said, and Trimino tried to wrestle him to the ground during a “10- to 15-second fistfight” and Taser him, unsuccessfully. Trimino was hit in the head, but did not require hospitalization.
Ehrlich appeared and also shot his stun gun, missing Hall.
It was moments later that Hall got up and — in a moment not captured on the dashboard camera — lunged at Trimino, the report said. An autopsy later revealed a gunshot wound to the elbow that showed Hall as “having the weapon in hand, raised and in a striking position.”
Before firing, the officer unleashed a string of profanities. “Get on the ground or you’re dead,” Trimino yelled; he later claimed he was trying to shake Hall free from his psychosis.
Trimino fired a slew of shots. According to the report, Hall was still struggling even as officers cuffed him and called for medical help.
Indicting a police officer for a shooting death in Florida is extremely rare. The last time it happened in this county was in 1989 when prosecutors charged Miami police officer William Lozano after he fired at a man fleeing on a motorcycle, killing two people. Lozano was convicted of manslaughter in Miami, a decision later overturned by the appellate court. A second jury acquitted him.
In December, a Broward grand jury indicted for manslaughter a deputy who fatally shot a man who was carrying an air rifle.