The attorney for the family of blind, mentally ill man killed by Fontana police released video this week of the man being fatally shot after a group of officers confront him in a gas station convenience store.
The killing of 47-year-old James Hall happened before dawn Nov. 22, 2015, at a Chevron station at Sierra and Slover avenues.
Police said at the time that officers were called to the store for a report of an armed robbery in progress, and that Hall was armed with a rock and a knife.
Hall’s relatives have hired the law offices of famed attorney Mark Geragos to represent them in a lawsuit over the killing. Geragos' office released the recording Wednesday.
Hall’s younger sister Merry James said watching the video made her “horrified.”
“It didn’t have to end in my brother’s life. He wasn’t lunging at anyone. He wasn’t aggressive in any way,” James said.
Hall was a “giving, loving person,” James said. He would give money and food to homeless people, and took care of their ill mother, she said.
She said police have not told her anything about what happened.
“What I learned is what I read in the paper, and that’s all I know,” she said. "To lose my brother was horrific enough, but ... not even to acknowledge him as a human being, or his family -- the loss that we've suffered. Do they not hold any value for his life?"
She’s seeking answers and hopes her story will help other people with family members with mental illness.
The video was first published by the Daily Mail Online. There is no sound on the video, so it's unclear what kind of conversation the officers had with Hall, if any, and it's difficult to tell what he had in his hands.
It shows at least five armed officers, weapons drawn and with a K-9, entering the store, cornering Hall near a soda and coffee machine. He collapses on the floor, shot.
More officers rush into the store, for about a dozen officers total. Attorney Ben Meiselas of the Offices of Geragos & Geragos, called the officers "militarized" and said Hall's death was a "cold-blooded murder."
“That video speaks for itself,” Meiselas said. “He was in the corner, all by himself. He was scared as all heck as the police officers surrounded him from all sides, approached him, treated him like a terrorist, and shot and killed him.”
The lawsuit names the city of Fontana, its Police Department, and 12 police officers, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The family, James said, has been “in torment.”
She sobbed in an interview Thursday as she described the video, saying she could tell her brother was scared.
"No family member should have to watch their family die. But to see him killed for no reason? He did nothing to deserve that," James said.
Authorities’ investigation into the killing was handled by the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, Fontana Police Department Sgt. Kevin Goltara said Thursday, reading from a written police statement.
The statement indicated that "one of the responding officers" fatally shot Hall. The case has been handed to the District Attorney’s Office for review, Goltara said.
“We can all recognize this was a tragic and unfortunate event for everyone involved,” Goltara said. “As such, our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and anyone else that was impacted by this incident.”
Meiselas described Hall as schizophrenic and blind.
Several weeks before he was killed, Hall went to police and told them he was schizophrenic and in fear for his life, the attorney said. The officers knew Hall was mentally ill, Meiselas alleged.
James said she spoke to her brother two days before he was killed. He was excited about upcoming Thanksgiving and his birthday. He wanted a flannel shirt for his birthday, she said.