$4.9M Settlement for Family of Man “Inexplicably” Shot by Cop Nine Times

The wheels of justice can grind slowly. For the family of Laudemer Arboleda, a mentally ill man wrongly killed by a police officer in 2018, justice has arrived. In October, it was announced that the town of Danville and Contra Costa County, where the shooting took place and where the officer was employed, would pay a $4.9 million settlement.

The announcement came after a first-ever felony conviction for an officer-involved shooting in Contra Costa County. As reported by the Associated Press, a jury convicted Officer Andrew Hall of felony assault with a firearm “but deadlocked on the more serious charge of voluntary manslaughter.” Given the facts of the case, the deadlock is a reminder of just how difficult it is to convict a police officer in an affluent suburb. However, aggrieved parties may still find justice in the civil court system.

The tragic incident began when residents called 911 complaining that a man, 33-year-old Laudemer Arboleda, “was knocking on doors and lingering outside homes in a cul-de-sac.” When police arrived, Arboleda got into his car and drove slowly away, failing to heed officers’ requests for him to stop.

A low-speed pursuit lasted several minutes, and officers reported the activity on their radios. Hall picked up the communication in his patrol car radio and proceeded to an intersection, blocking the road to intercept Arboleda’s car. Then, the unthinkable happened.

As the AP reports, “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. Hall fired 10 bullets and nine hit Arboleda.” The use of lethal force in this situation, where public safety was not threatened, cannot possibly be justified. Almost worse than the shooting was the refusal of the Contra Costa Sheriff’s Office to discipline Hall. In fact, the Sheriff’s Office “cleared Hall of misconduct after a nine-month investigation into Arboleda’s shooting.”

Arboleda’s family kept the pressure on authorities by filing their lawsuit in June 2019. The lawsuit alleged that Hall “inexplicably opened fire” on the unarmed Arboleda, and that “the county and town breached their duty to the public by failing to discipline Hall for the misconduct.” It would take almost two more years for Diana Becton, Contra Costa’s District Attorney, to conclude her review of the case and bring charges against Hall in April 2021. Following his conviction, Hall faces 17 years in prison.

The family’s attorney said his clients and the county’s Board of Supervisors agreed to the settlement while Hall’s trial was underway but kept the agreement secret to not influence those proceedings. “I hope the message this sends is that the public will hold police accountable for police misconduct.” He added that “cities and counties have some responsibility to train their officers in such a way that they do not use deadly force under circumstances where it is unnecessary.” It would be best if these incidents never occurred; at least when government authorities fail in their duties, people can still pursue justice through a civil lawsuit.