MIAMI – Prosecutors are looking into the fatal shooting of a mentally ill man by a Florida police officer, but his family called this week for an independent investigation of the incident, releasing footage from a police dashboard camera to bolster their case.
In February, Miami Gardens officer Eddo Trimino went to the home of Lavall Hall, 25, after his mother called 911 to report that her son was having a violent episode. Hall suffered from schizophrenia and had recently been released from a mental hospital, according to a federal wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family against the city.
Authorities say Hall repeatedly swung a metal broom and refused commands to stop, although the 19-minute dash camera video released Wednesday by family attorney Glen Goldberg does not show that. It does, however, include audio with Trimino yelling at Hall to get on the ground.
"Get on the ground or you're dead," Trimino, 34, yells just before firing five shots while appearing to back up. Hall is off camera at that point.
Earlier, another officer, Peter Ehrlich, is heard saying that Hall is carrying a broom.
"Every time I go near him he walks away," Ehrlich says.
State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle's office is investigating the case, but in Florida it is rare for a police officer to be charged with a crime in a fatal shooting.
Goldberg said the video, which was released to him by the city, raises questions, and on Wednesday he called for an outside agency to launch a separate investigation.
"The officers had made up their minds they were going to kill Hall," Goldberg said.
Trimino's attorney told the Miami Herald (http://hrld.us/1E7cYBo) the officer feared for his life as he retreated from Hall, who disobeyed commands.
Although Hall was black and Trimino is white, Hall's family and NAACP members stressed at a news conference Wednesday that the shooting is more about police dealing with the mentally ill than with any race issues. No racial epithets are heard on the video.
"After seeing the video, it's clear to me that the incident was avoidable," said Eric Pettus, NAACP executive board member in Miami. "This was a call that was a mental health issue."
According to the wrongful death lawsuit, Hall was struck by two of the five shots. Officers also used electric stun devices at least twice but they had no effect on Hall, the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages from the city, also says police had previous encounters with Hall at his mother's home and "knew or should have known that Hall suffered from a mental condition" when they responded that night.
Follow Curt Anderson on Twitter: http://twitter.com/Miamicurt