Miami Gardens - Opa-locka

Family of man killed by Miami Gardens police last month sues city, former chief

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 Feb. 15 after being shot by Miami Gardens police. The family has filed suit against the city and former police chief.
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 Feb. 15 after being shot by Miami Gardens police. The family has filed suit against the city and former police chief. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

Attorneys representing the mother and 8-year-old daughter of a man who was shot and killed after a confrontation with two Miami Gardens police officers last month filed a wrongful death lawsuit Monday against the city and its former police chief asking for more than $20 million.

“We filed the suit because something had to be done,’’ said attorney Judd Rosen, of Goldberg and Rosen. “The family needs some justice.’’

Lavall Hall was killed at about 5 a.m. Feb. 15 after his mother called police to report that her son, whom she said was schizophrenic and bipolar, came at her with a broomstick handle.

According to police, officers Peter Ehrlich and Eddo Trimino fired their Tasers at Hall after he struck them with the metal end of a broomstick. After the Tasers had no effect, the officers chased Hall for about half a block and when Hall charged at Trimino, the officer fired five shots. Two bullets hit Hall: One hit his arm and the other was a deadly shot to the chest.

Former Miami Gardens Police Chief Stephen Johnson — who was fired Friday night after being arrested on a charge of soliciting a prostitute in Dania Beach — told the media two days after the incident that “they did the best they could.”

He said the department would investigate and hand the findings over to the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office.

But Hall’s mother, Catherine Daniels, said she told police about her son’s illness and he never should have been shot. His daughter, Aariaya Hall, is now without her father.

Rosen said he filed the lawsuit after several failed attempts to get information about the case, including video of the incident. Dozens of people also protested at a Miami Gardens council meeting last week, asking for an independent investigation of the shooting.

Days after the shooting, Rosen’s law partner, Glen Goldberg, wrote a letter to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement commissioner asking for an independent investigation into the shooting. He also sent the letter to Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

With no response, Rosen said the suit, filed with the 11th Circuit Court, was the only thing left to do.

“When you are not getting justice in terms of a criminal investigation, you seek justice through the court system,” he said.

The crux of the case, Rosen said, is excessive force.

“When you have someone who has a known mental illness, the officers have to approach the situation delicately,” he said.

The 30-page suit lists claims against Erlich, Trimino, Johnson and the city in 15 separate counts. Several phone messages left for city officials and for City Manager Cameron Benson went unanswered Monday.

Among the claims: “Defendent [sic], Johnson, knew or should have known that the Defendent officers were violating the law and the Miami Gardens Police Department’s policies and procedures, yet did nothing to remedy the situation.”

Johnson could not be reached for comment Monday.

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