ACLU asks feds to reconsider charges for MI cops in homeless man’s ‘firing squad’ death

By Travis Gettys
Tuesday, March 18, 2014 10:52 EDT
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The American Civil Liberties Union has asked the U.S. Department of Justice to reconsider its decision not to prosecute six Michigan police officers who fatally shot a homeless man during a confrontation over stolen coffee.

The Saginaw police officers fired 47 rounds at Milton Hall, a mentally ill man armed with a knife, and struck him 11 times in a July 2012 confrontation over a stolen cup of coffee.

Federal authorities announced Feb. 25 that they had not found enough evidence of “willful misconduct” to ask for charges against the officers.

But ACLU officials said cell phone video of the incident recorded by witnesses showed the officers fired the fusillade within a matter of seconds and continued shooting even after Hall fell to the ground.

“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,” said Mark Fancher, ACLU of Michigan racial justice staff attorney.

The ACLU’s Michigan branch said in a March 12 letter to U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade that evidence contradicted conclusions made by the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan and the FBI.

Saginaw County’s prosecutor also declined to file charges against the officers.

The officers explained afterward that they believed Hall posed a threat to them, and federal investigators said the evidence they examined did not show otherwise.

But the civil rights group cited Supreme Court precedent to show that “recklessly disregarding” a person’s rights can meet the “willfulness” standard regardless of the officer’s frame of mind.

Hall’s mother has filed a federal wrongful death lawsuit against the city and nine police officers seeking “full and fair compensation,” in addition to punitive damages.

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