U.S. Attorney's Office Concludes Investigation Into Fatal Shooting in Northeast Washington
No Charges to Be Filed Against Metropolitan Police Department Officer
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia announced today that there is insufficient evidence to pursue federal criminal civil rights or District of Columbia charges against an officer from the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) who was involved in the fatal shooting on Dec. 25, 2016, of Gerald Hall in Northeast Washington.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) conducted a comprehensive review of the incident. This included interviews of civilian and law enforcement witnesses; physical evidence recovered on the scene, including three knives; body-worn camera footage; recorded audio transmissions; autopsy, toxicology, and DNA reports; and MPD and District of Columbia Department of Forensic Sciences reports, diagrams, and photographs.
According to the evidence, the events unfolded in this manner:
On Dec. 25, 2016, at approximately 10:30 a.m., Mr. Hall was in the home of his girlfriend in the 3200 block of Walnut Street NE, when they started to argue and she told him to leave. When his girlfriend walked away, Mr. Hall turned on all of the burners on the stove and set fire to a paper towel. Shortly after 11 a.m., a 911 caller requested that police go to the house because “my neighbor’s getting beat up over there” and that she was “screaming for help.” The MPD officer and his partner arrived moments later. Mr. Hall’s girlfriend, who had no visible injuries, told police that a physical fight had not occurred and that she had called her sister and would leave with her. The MPD officer and his partner left the scene.
When the sister arrived, the two women attempted to get into the house, but Mr. Hall pushed on the door to keep it closed. When the women were finally able to get in, Mr. Hall was holding a large knife with a grey handle and he started walking towards his girlfriend’s sister, who then picked up a large knife with a black handle to defend herself. The girlfriend stepped in between the two and started tussling with Mr. Hall so that the sister could get out of the house.
As the sister left the house, Mr. Hall locked the door behind her. He then slammed down the knife with the grey handle, breaking the tip, and picked up a large carving knife with a brown handle. Immediately after being locked out, the sister dropped the knife she was holding on the landing outside the door, and called 911 at 11:22 a.m. and stated that, “my sister is locked in the house. Her boyfriend is crazy. He got a knife. He turned on the gas and I’m locked out.” At the same time, a neighbor also called 911 and reported that, “he is beating her up!” The neighbor’s son went over to the house just as Mr. Hall’s girlfriend opened the door and dropped the knife with the grey handle onto the landing.
The dispatcher sent the MPD officer and his partner back to the residence “Code 1” (lights and sirens) for the “man with a knife,” and they arrived less than five minutes later. Both officers had already activated their body-worn cameras while driving to the scene, and they kept them on throughout the duration of the incident. When the officers walked up the stairs, there were already two large knives on the landing – the one with the grey handle, once held by Mr. Hall, and the one with the black handle, once held by the girlfriend’s sister. The neighbor’s son, who was leaving the house, told the officer that Mr. Hall “got a knife on him.” The MPD officer looked through the door and saw Mr. Hall standing near his girlfriend, holding a large knife. The officer ordered Mr. Hall to “put the knife down, put the knife down, put the knife down!” as the girlfriend moved quickly towards the door saying, “he’s all right, he’s all right.” Mr. Hall then pushed his girlfriend out of the door and closed it. As the girlfriend sat down on the door stoop, a large cut was visible on her arm.
The officers yelled for the girlfriend and the neighbor to get out, and get off the door stoop. As the girlfriend stood up with her back towards the door, the door suddenly opened and Mr. Hall stood in the threshold behind her with the large knife in his right hand. The officer immediately fired his weapon four times and Mr. Hall fell to the floor just inside the door. From the time that the MPD officer first started going up the stairs until the time that Mr. Hall fell to the floor after being shot, 35 seconds elapsed.
Mr. Hall, 29, was transported to MedStar Washington Hospital Center, where he was later pronounced dead. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner for the District of Columbia determined that Mr. Hall was shot four times, including twice in the chest.
After a careful, thorough, and independent review of the evidence, federal prosecutors have found insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the officer used excessive force under the circumstances. To the contrary, there is sufficient evidence that the officer was acting in self-defense and defense of others at the time of the shooting.
Use-of-force investigations generally
The U.S. Attorney’s Office reviews all police-involved fatalities to determine whether sufficient evidence exists to conclude that any officers violated either federal criminal civil rights laws or District of Columbia law. To prove such violations, prosecutors must be able to prove that the involved officers willfully used more force than was reasonably necessary. Proving “willfulness” is a heavy burden. Prosecutors must not only prove that the force used was excessive, but must also prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the officer acted with the deliberate and specific intent to do something the law forbids. A conclusion that “there is insufficient evidence” is not meant to suggest anything further about what evidence, if any, exists.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office remains committed to investigating allegations of excessive force by law enforcement officers and will continue to devote the resources necessary to ensure that all allegations of serious civil rights violations are investigated fully and completely. The Metropolitan Police Department’s Internal Affairs Division investigates all police-involved fatalities in the District of Columbia.