Michigan police officers won’t face federal charges in the fatal shooting of a homeless man during a confrontation over stolen coffee.
Federal authorities, including the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI, announced Tuesday that there wasn’t enough evidence to charge the six Saginaw police officers.
“After a thorough investigation, federal authorities have determined that this tragic event does not present sufficient evidence of willful misconduct to lead to a federal criminal prosecution of the police officers involved,” the agencies said in a joint statement.
Police were called on the afternoon of July 1, 2012, to investigate a report that a man had stolen a cup of coffee from a convenience store.
Officers found 49-year-old Milton Hall, a homeless Saginaw man who was armed with a pocket knife and a known history of mental illness.
During the confrontation in a parking lot, police fired their weapons 47 times at Hall, striking him 11 times and killing him.
Prosecutors also declined to charge the officers in the state’s investigation, saying Hall acted aggressively as he wielded the knife.
But Hall’s mother said her son’s death amounted to “execution by firing squad” and filed a wrongful death suit in September against the city and nine officers seeking compensation and punitive damages.
Her suit claims that then-Saginaw Police Sgt. Anajanette “A.J.” Wojciechowski was the first officer to arrive at the scene and called for assistance because Hall was not “looking so nice.”
Wojciechowski urged the other officers to hurry or she was “going to have to shoot this guy,” according to the suit.
The responding officers immediately surrounded Hall with their weapons pointed at the man, the suit claims, and “repeatedly and aggressively taunted and threatened Hall with a police dog, which frightened and agitated him further.”
Hall called 911 seeking help from a police supervisor, saying he was surrounded and defending himself with a pocket knife, but he was shot to death before any assistance was sent.
“Hall’s call … went unheeded while (the officers) on the scene, without provocation, rapidly, recklessly, and needlessly elevated through the force continuum, culminating with deadly force being used by (the officers),” the suit claims.
Civilian witnesses recorded portions of the incident on their cell phones, and it was also recorded by the dashboard cameras in two police cruisers.
The officers explained in their reports afterward that they believed Hall posed a threat to them, and federal investigators said the evidence they examined did not show otherwise.
“Even if the officers were mistaken in their assessment of the threat posed by Hall, this would not establish that the officers acted willfully, or with an unlawful intent, when using deadly force against Hall,” the agencies said in their statement.
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