$4.9M payout to family of mentally ill man killed by Danville police officer

The family of a mentally ill man who died in an East Bay police shooting received a $4.9 million wrongful death settlement -- made public a day after the officer who killed him was found guilty of assault, KTVU has learned.

The family of 33-year-old Laudemer Arboleda was awarded the money in early October. It is the highest police payout amount in Contra Costa County since 2015, a review of records by KTVU shows. 

The settlement was reached during Hall's criminal trial but before the jury began deliberating. On Tuesday, jurors found Danville police officer Andrew Hall guilty of assault, but deadlocked on voluntary manslaughter. 

In November 2018, Hall shot Arboleda nine times following a slow-speed chase in Danville. His attorneys argued that he acted in self-defense while prosecutors said the county sheriff’s deputy acted rashly, unsafely and with excessive force.

Hall could now face up to 17 years in prison. He remains free until his Jan. 14 sentencing. But the felony conviction makes him ineligible to continue serving as a law enforcement officer.

In the civil case, the Arboleda family was represented by Oakland attorneys John Burris and Adante Pointer.

Pointer called Tuesday's verdict in the criminal trial "imperfect justice."

On the one hand, Pointer said that a jury deliberating in a relatively conservative county finding an officer guilty of anything is "historic." 

Still, he said the family does not feel whole with the deadlocked vote on the more serious charge of manslaughter. Pointer added, however, that the jury had to deliberate with the former California law in mind  - was it reasonable to shoot? – as opposed to the new California law – was it necessary? 

Burris said, "The money in and of itself is not as significant as the criminal case was. Money cannot bring back a life, and the criminal case is an acknowledgement and punishment, in fact, for the person who took that life."

The payout is significant: It ranks with nearly similar $5 million or $6 million paid to the family of Christian Madrigal of Fremont, who died after being chained to a door at Santa Rita Jail;  Stanislav Petrov, who was beaten by sheriff's deputies in San Francisco; and the family of Ronnell Foster, who was killed by Vallejo police after being stopped on his bicycle for not having the proper headlight. 

Until now, Contra Costa County has had a relatively low police payout rate for wrongful death and excessive force suits. Arboleda's settlement  brings the total to $6.4 million since 2015. 

During Hall’s three-week trial, prosecutors and defense attorneys presented competing narratives, alternately asking the jury to sympathize with the deputy’s need to make split-second decisions or the troubled victim whose only crime was not stopping for police.

Hall returned to duty after the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office cleared him of misconduct after its own nine-month investigation.

The county district attorney’s office only filed felony charges against him this April. They were announced a day after a jury convicted Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin of killing George Floyd, a shooting that set off nationwide calls for social justice.

The events unfolded on Nov. 3, 2018, when a Danville resident called 911 to report that a man later identified as Arboleda was knocking on doors and lingering outside homes in a cul-de-sac.

Just months before his encounter with Hall, Arboleda was involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital for three weeks and prescribed medication for psychosis and schizophrenia, his family has said.

When county sheriff’s deputies arrived, they saw Arboleda get into into his car and drive away.

Arboleda led officers on a 9-minute, slow-speed chase through Danville.

Hall heard about the pursuit over his patrol car radio and stopped his vehicle at an intersection to block Arboleda’s car.

Police video shows Hall stepping in the path of Arboleda’s vehicle and firing a volley of shots into the windshield and passenger-side window.

During opening remarks at Hall’s trial, prosecutor Colleen Gleason presented dashboard and bodycam footage showing Hall jumping out of his car, running up to Arboleda’s vehicle and firing repeatedly.

Hall’s lawyers said the officer feared for his safety, and used body cam footage from different angles to show the right front tire of Arboleda’s car was pointed at Hall when the shooting started, indicating it was heading in his direction.

Harry Stern, Hall's attorney, said he plans to file a motion for a new trial. He said the assault conviction was "legally inconsistent" with the jury's inability to reach a verdict on the manslaughter charge.

He said the jury was deadlocked with seven on the panel leaning toward not guilty on the manslaughter charge.

"It's a mixed bag, frankly," Stern said. "I feel horrible, obviously for Deputy Hall at this point. But we'll continue to fight."

Contra Costa County District Attorney Diana Becton said she was deciding whether to pursue a retrial on the charge.

Becton was criticized for the years-long lag in filing criminal charges both by activists and four of her own prosecutors, who said such lengthy delays erode public and police confidence in the legal process.

The charges came six weeks after Hall, who is white, shot and killed another man, Tyrell Wilson, a Black homeless man whose family said was suffering from depression and paranoia. The shooting of Wilson remains under investigation.

KTVU legal analyst Michael Cardoza said he doubts the DA's office will refile the manslaughter charge given that Hall has been convicted of assault.

"My instincts in this is that they will not refile it, they will go with their conviction. Once he's sentence, they will dismiss the manslaughter case," Cardoza said.

KTVU's Henry Lee contributed to this report.