A Pennsylvania teenager had his hands up while holding a pellet gun when he was shot and killed by state police in the Poconos last year, new video obtained by NBC News shows, prompting calls for an independent investigation and legal action from the teen’s parents.
The incident occurred on Dec. 30, 2020, around 1:30 p.m. in Hamilton Township, Monroe County, Pennsylvania.
State Police received several calls reporting a possibly suicidal person on top of the bridge over Interstate Route 80. One of those calls came from 19-year-old Christian Hall who told the 911 dispatcher, “I think there is a possible suicider on top of 80 bridge, like right at the entrance outside Lowe’s,” according to the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office.
Responding state troopers later found Hall standing on the ledge of the outside concrete barrier overlooking Route 80. The troopers also noticed an object in Hall’s hand and determined he was holding a gun, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
Get Philly local news, weather forecasts, sports and entertainment stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC Philadelphia newsletters.
For about an hour and a half, the troopers spoke with Hall and repeatedly asked him to put the gun down and come down off the ledge. During that time, both ends of the bridge as well as both lanes of I-80 were closed. Tractor trailers were also positioned underneath the bridge to deter Hall from jumping.
At one point, Hall placed the gun down on the ledge and began smoking marijuana, according to the District Attorney’s Office. Hall also spoke with the troopers about his life, claiming he had been in prison for 8 years and that he would not be going back to jail, investigators said.
“When asked how they can help him, Hall stated “you just don’t get it,” a spokesperson for the District Attorney’s Office wrote. “Trooper #4 asked Hall to explain it to him. At one point, Hall asks Trooper #4 if they, referring to the Troopers, are trained to shoot if they are shot at. Hall during this time repeated the phrase “make it quick” several times.”
Breaking news and the stories that matter to your neighborhood.
At that point, investigators said Hall picked up his gun again and the troopers returned to their vehicle for cover. One of the troopers told investigators he was too far from Hall to deploy a Taser and Hall was wearing a heavy coat. The trooper also said he didn’t use mace on Hall because of the heavy winds and distance.
The troopers said they continued to urge Hall to put down the gun and surrender for another 20 minutes. Hall then began walking toward the troopers, police said. Investigators said Hall took 14 steps and paused between each one as if expecting the troopers to fire. They also said Hall removed the gun from his waistband as the troopers continued to tell him to drop the weapon.
One of the troopers then fired three times toward Hall though none of those shots appeared to strike him. Investigators said Hall then raised his gun “outward toward his side and then upwards by bending his elbow at a ninety degree angle” and continued to ignore commands to drop the weapon.
The troopers then fired eight shots, striking Hall three times. Hall was taken to the hospital where he was pronounced dead. Investigators later determined Hall was in possession of a pellet gun.
Initial video of the shooting released by the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office blurred the moments in which Hall was shot and killed. The full, unobscured video was later obtained by NBC News and Spotlight PA. It shows that Hall kept his hands above his head for 14 seconds and that his hands were still up when the troopers opened fire.
Prior to his death, Hall had been diagnosed with depression. The Monroe County District Attorney’s Office also said they gathered evidence indicating Hall was suicidal and wanted to die by suicide by cop. However, the latest video has prompted calls for an independent investigation as well as protests from demonstrators who questioned why the troopers would shoot a teenager who appeared to be suicidal and in need of help.
NBC News reports that Hall’s parents are suing the two troopers who shot their son. Ben Crump and Devon Jacob, the lawyers who represented George Floyd’s family, are now representing Hall’s parents.
The identities of the troopers have not been released.
Maria Haberfield, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, told NBC10 she agrees with the call for an independent investigation.
“They were talking to him for over an hour,” she said. “So, it wasn’t some sort of incident that happened without thinking, without processing what’s happening. Very unfortunate.”
Haberfield told NBC10 she also believes the shooting was justified, however.
“Like in any case of justified shooting, it doesn’t minimize the tragedy in this because it was clearly suicide by cop, almost by the book,” she said.
Haberfield also told NBC10 it could take “anywhere from months to years” before new information on the incident is released.
SUICIDE PREVENTION HELP: The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255) is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.