(AP) – A Danville police officer who is accused of fatally shooting two mentally ill men in the past three years pleaded not guilty to manslaughter charges Wednesday in the case of the first shooting in 2018, a court official said.
Officer Andrew Hall of the Danville Police Department was charged in April with two felony counts for the 2018 shooting death of Laudemer Arboleda, an unarmed Filipino man who was slowly driving away from police when Hall shot him nine times.
Hall appeared Wednesday at the Contra Costa County Superior Court in the city of Martinez for his arraignment and entered his not guilty plea, court spokesman Matt Malone said.
Contra Costa District Attorney Diana Becton announced in April that Hall was being charged with felony voluntary manslaughter and felony assault with a semiautomatic firearm for Arboleda’s death.
Becton came under criticism for the timing of the charges, which were announced one day after former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of killing George Floyd, a Black man whose death last May helped spark a national reckoning over racial injustice and police brutality.
Critics have asked why it took so long and say the delay had deadly consequences.
On March 11, just weeks before the charges were filed, Hall, who is white, shot and killed Tyrell Wilson, 33, a Black homeless man in Danville, a wealthy suburb east of San Francisco. The Wilson shooting is still under investigation by the District Attorney’s office.
Police video footage of both shootings have raised questions about Hall’s conduct.
In bodycam and dashboard footage from the 2018 incident, officers are seen slowly pursuing Arboleda through the city of Danville after someone reported a suspicious person in a residential cul-de-sac.
The video from the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Department, which contracts police services to Danville, shows Hall stopping his patrol car, getting out and running toward the sedan driven by Arboleda. Hall opened fire and kept shooting as Arboleda’s car passed by, striking him nine times.
Hall testified at an inquest that he was afraid Arboleda would run him over.
Becton said in April that Hall “used unreasonable and unnecessary force” that endangered “not only Mr. Arboleda’s life but the lives of his fellow officers and citizens in the immediate area.”
Civil rights attorney John Burris, who is representing Arboleda’s family, says Hall generated a threat where none existed and then tried to shoot his way out of it.
“The officer claims it was imminent danger, and it was not,” Burris said. “The officer himself was not in danger. He shot into a moving car when he himself was in a position of safety.”
Hall’s attorney, Harry Stern, did not respond to a message seeking comment.