Content warning: This story contains material about mental health and violence.
These details and more were revealed thanks to the full version of footage (viewable here) obtained by a Hall family attorney via a subpoena, per a collaborative report from NBC News and Spotlight PA released on Thursday. Footage previously made public by the Monroe County district attorney’s office had shown Hall raising his hands, though the final moments had been blurred.
Hall, who is Chinese American, was 19 when he was fatally shot in December 2020 by troopers whose names have still not been made public. Diagnosed with depression, Hall was in crisis and standing on a highway overpass ledge when troopers arrived on the scene.
While responding troopers at first tried to convince Hall to step down from the ledge, they backed away from the scene when noticing a gun that was later confirmed to be a “realistic pellet gun.” At one point in footage, troopers fired shots that hit part of the bridge while telling Hall to drop the gun. Hall then raised his hands and kept them raised. The gun is seen in one hand but is not pointed at the officers when troopers fired additional shots, at which point Hall fell to the ground.
The Monroe County district attorney later ruled that the shooting was justified. Mental health advocates and others, however, criticized this explanation and questioned why lethal force would have been used in an incident of this nature.
Back in March, attorneys Ben Crump and Devon M. Jacob responded to the “justified” argument with a news conference during which they criticized the actions of the responding troopers. Namely, per Crump, Hall’s actions represented a “cry for help” that was ultimately answered with bullets.
“Once you see hands go up, that’s the universal sign of surrender,” Crump said at the time, per the Associated Press. In a new statement, shared Thursday, Crump noted that the push to acquire the unredacted footage took nearly a year.
“Parents whose children are in the midst of a mental health emergency should be confident that their children will be assisted by law enforcement, not gunned down when they need help the most,” Crump said.
In light of the latest developments, the teen’s father Gareth Hall told NBC News he wanted to see an “unbiased investigation” into the fatal shooting of his son. The family has also started the process of filing lawsuits against the troopers. A public website for Jacob, notably, lists a civil rights case against “John Doe Pennsylvania State Police, et al.” The listing says Pennsylvania State Police “refuses to publicly identify” the troopers in question.
Reached for comment by Complex on Thursday, attorney Devon M. Jacob pointed to an official statement previously released by Pennsylvania State Police “advising that Christian Hall was shot and killed because he ‘began walking towards the Troopers’ and ‘pointed the firearm in the Troopers’ direction.’” Furthermore, per Jacob, Monroe County First Assistant District Attorney (ADA) Michael Mancuso “led the public to believe that Christian was shot and killed because he ‘took yet another step in the direction of the involved officers as he manipulated his weapon in the previously mentioned fashion.’”
The latest developments, however, contradict these statements.
“Rather, the unredacted video establishes that Christian was shot in direct response to an order that ‘If he doesn’t drop it, take him,’” Jacob said in an emailed statement to Complex. “The unredacted video establishes that when the fatal shots were fired, Christian was standing still, with his hands in the air, with what was believed to be a gun in his left hand and pointed at the sky, in the universal stance of surrender.”
Jacob also added that the shooting was “an unlawful homicide” that violated “longstanding clearly established law.”
When reached for comment on Thursday, a rep for Pennsylvania State Police pointed Complex to a Monroe County Office of the District Attorney press release from March of this year. The rep also offered the following:
“Any loss of life is tragic. The trauma associated with a loss of life affects everyone involved. We cannot comment further until this case is out of active litigation.”