When police in Michigan killed a mentally ill man in a hail of bullets two years ago, it prompted a local outcry and a federal investigation. A video released Monday offers a disturbingly clear look at the shooting.
The video, captured by a police car dashboard camera, appears to show six police officers gunning down Milton Hall, 49, in broad daylight, during a tense confrontation in a Saginaw parking lot. Hall was armed with a penknife and appears to be standing at least several yards from the nearest officer. Officers fired at him more than 45 times.
The American Civil Liberties Union obtained the video from lawyers for Hall’s family. It provides a closer and more detailed view of the killing than the handheld civilian video that was shown on CNN shortly after the shooting.
The ACLU presented the police dashboard footage to representatives of the Organization of American States on Monday in an attempt to pressure the federal government to take another look at Hall's death. The Department of Justice announced in February that its investigators failed to find “sufficient evidence of willful misconduct” to prosecute the officers. At the OAS hearing on Monday, Mark Fancher, a lawyer with the ACLU of Michigan, likened the officers to a “firing squad” and criticized the Justice Department for failing to prosecute them.
The shooting was “not only reckless, but clearly unjust, and also grossly violated Milton Hall’s human right to life,” Fancher said.
Neither the DOJ nor the Saginaw Police Department immediately responded to requests for comment. A DOJ press release from February says investigators examined the dashboard footage, civilian videos and other evidence as part of “a thorough investigation.”
The hearing, held at the Washington headquarters of the OAS, focused on racially biased policing in the United States, an issue that has drawn international attention since July, when a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, killed unarmed teenager Michael Brown. The death of Hall, who was black, brought Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton to Saginaw to meet with outraged citizens in 2012.
The OAS has no real authority over the U.S. Yet Michael Steinberg, legal director of the ACLU of Michigan, said he hopes the hearing will serve “as a wake-up call for the desperate need to address police misconduct against the black citizens of this country."
“The power behind these international tribunals is to draw attention to the problem and to put pressure on the United States to abide by human rights principles,” Steinberg said.