On a quiet Sunday in July 2012 in broad daylight, six police officers in Michigan repeatedly shot an African-American man struggling with homelessness and mental illness. While the killing of Milton Hall prompted local outrage and a federal investigation, the U.S. Department of Justice announced in February that it failed to find “sufficient evidence of willful misconduct” to prosecute the policemen.
This Monday, more than two years later, the ACLU released footage obtained from the Hall family’s lawyers and used it as part of its testimony before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, an organ of the Organization of American States, in order to put pressure on the federal government. While a bystander video was shown on CNN shortly after the shooting, the newly released dashcam video shows the incident with unprecedented detail.
In the video, Hall, 49, is seen standing in a Saginaw, Michigan, parking lot surrounded by eight police officers with their guns drawn and pointed at him. During the short stand-off, a police dog began to growl and lunge toward Hall, who took out a small pocketknife in response. It was when he turned to the dog, the ACLU says, that police showered Hall with a stream of bullets.
The officers fired 46 shots in a matter of seconds, hitting Hall 14 times. Once on the ground, an officer turned him over, handcuffed him, and put his foot on Hall’s back—with “his blood running down the street like water,” Jewel Hall, Milton's mother, told the ACLU.
WARNING: GRAPHIC VIDEO
Milton Hall was born on April 25, 1963 in Saginaw. His mother told the ACLU that Hall spent his days as a community worker who fought for equal rights. He was an avid reader, researcher, and even received training from Rosa Parks. In his mid-20s, signs of Hall’s mental disability started to appear.
“As long as he was on his medication and all, he did fine. It was when he wasn't on his medication that he was impatient. He'd sometimes become intolerant,” Jewel told the ACLU. “But when he was on his medication, he maintained.
"It's been devastating to our family; it was devastating to the community. And justice still has not been served," she said. "There needs to be a change in how police deal with situations like the one that ended my son's life. Our leaders have to address conditions that allow police to use excessive and deadly force with impunity."
"As a civilian, Mr. Hall had every right to expect that the police would protect his life, but instead, he was the target of what resembled in many ways a firing squad,” Mark Fancher, a lawyer with the ACLU of Michigan, said. "The government cannot act as if the life of a homeless black man has no value. Saginaw deserves justice not only for Milton Hall, but for the entire community that has been devastated by this inexplicable act of police violence."
The hearing, held on Monday, focused on racially biased policing in the United States. While the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has no legal authority, the ACLU hopes the testimony will serve “as a wake-up call for the desperate need to address police misconduct against the black citizens of this country," said Michael Steinberg, the legal director of the ACLU of Michigan. “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.”