Miami Gardens - Opa-locka

Miami Gardens police chief says officers who killed mentally ill man 'did best they could'

Catherine Daniels is comforted by her nephew Tyrone Nelson and her cousin Elaine Ingraham Feb. 17, 2015, at a memorial for her son Lavall Hall, 25, who died Sunday morning after being shot by Miami Gardens police. Hall was brandishing a broomstick at police and was not following police commands, Miami Gardens Police Chief Stephen Johnson said.
Catherine Daniels is comforted by her nephew Tyrone Nelson and her cousin Elaine Ingraham Feb. 17, 2015, at a memorial for her son Lavall Hall, 25, who died Sunday morning after being shot by Miami Gardens police. Hall was brandishing a broomstick at police and was not following police commands, Miami Gardens Police Chief Stephen Johnson said. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

Miami Gardens police officers Peter Ehrlich and Eddo Trimino fired their Tasers at Lavall Hall after he struck them with the metal end of a broomstick. The Tasers had no effect. Then they chased Hall for about half a block before he turned and charged at them.

As Hall neared, Trimino fired his gun five times, striking Hall twice, once in the arm, and the kill shot to his chest. Hall was still alive and “struggling” when the officers handcuffed him and placed him faced down on the street. He died moments later.

That version of Sunday morning’s violent encounter between Lavall Hall, 25, and the two Miami Gardens cops came from Miami Gardens Police Chief Stephen Johnson, as he addressed the media at police headquarters Tuesday night.

“Tremino encountered the subject and gave him several commands. He continued to be combative,” said Johnson. “They did the best they could.”

Johnson also said Trimino, 34, fired his weapon in 2013 after he was forced to return gunfire from a suspected murderer. The man was killed. Information on that incident wasn’t available late Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Hall’s family continued to grapple with the loss of a loved one Tuesday at their home at 19157 NW Third Ave. Hall’s mother, Catherine Daniels, collapsed into the arms of family members as she wailed while standing over a pair of teddy bears that now mark the spot where her son expired.

“Oh my God, my baby. I miss you. Why you all take my baby away from me?” she asked.

Daniels and family members say they told police before the encounter that Hall was bipolar and schizophrenic and took medication. She said Miami Gardens police should have known who they were dealing with because the department helped place him in the mental ward of a nearby hospital only last week. Johnson mentioned at the press conference that police were called to the family’s home some time in the past three years because Hall had lit his clothes on fire and was threatening his mother with a knife.

What exactly transpired at the family’s home likely won’t be known for months, or even years, when the Miami-Dade state atorrney’s office completes its review of the police investigation. The police department will investigate first, then pass its findings on to the state attorney, who will decide whether there was any criminal wrongdoing in the actions taken by Trimino and Ehrlich, 66.

But a clear picture of what took place is beginning to emerge, as family members and police share their accounts of early Sunday morning.

Daniels said she went to bed at about 11 p.m. Saturday night while her son was playing a Madden video football game on the television in the living room. She had just fed him fried pork chops for dinner. Daniels and police agree that she called 911 at 5 a.m. Sunday saying she had found her son outside and became frightened when he turned toward her with a broomstick in his hands.

Daniels said she locked herself inside the home and called police. Johnson described the call as “frantic.”

When police arrived, Daniels said she told them of her son’s illness. The police went looking for him and found him outside a neighbor’s home on the front lawn. One witness said that’s where Hall was first shocked with a Taser, an electronic device that shoots barbs into its target. Police said after being struck several times with the broomstick, Ehrlich fired the initial Taser blast. Police and the witness said the Taser had no effect.

As Hall headed east on Northwest 191st Street, Tremino gave chase. “Mr. Hall at that time began to physically attack the officer,” Johnson said.

After hitting Tremino in the head with the broomstick, Johnson said Tremino fired his Taser. It had no effect. Hall headed south on Northwest Second Court, about half a block from his home. Tremino continued to chase. As Hall turned and charged toward the officer, Johnson said Tremino fired his weapon five times.

“He gave him several commands,” said Johnson.

Ehrlich was treated at the scene. Tremino went to the hosptial and received stitches. Both officers are on paid administrative leave. Johnson said both officers are veterans who have received crisis intervention training.

Early Tuesday, Johnson announced plans for a press conference with the intention of discussing what he saw on one of his officer’s dashboard video cameras, and what he heard on the 911 call from Daniels. The state attorney’s office quashed those plans. The press conference, which finally took place at 7:30 p.m., was delayed for more than two hours as Johnson contacted Hall’s father’s side of the family, the chief said.

Walter Pinkins, a cousin of Daniels who has taken on the role of the family spokesman, said he spoke with the chief early Tuesday and was told he was coming over later in the day to address the family. He never did. The family has hired attorney Glen Goldberg to represent them.

Goldberg said Tuesday he had not contacted the police department or the Miami-Dade County medical examiner. Investigator Luigi Bazzani was gathering information. Hall leaves behind an 8-year-old daughter, Araya Hall.

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