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Photo: Justice for Christian Hall Facebook Page
Christian Hall was shot and killed by PA state police in December 2020. Photo: Facebook- @Justice for Christian Hall

Who was Christian Hall? The PA teen killed by state police in 2020 during a mental health crisis

Hall’s shooting by police has entered the discussions around both police violence and anti-Asian hate.

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2020 was a year that will go down in U.S. history as one that brought some of the most devastating and well-known cases of police brutality, and ended the way it started — without justice.

On Wednesday, Dec. 30, 19-year-old Christian Hall was shot and killed by Pennsylvania State Police on a highway overpass near the Giant food store where he was employed.

It was later discovered that Hall was in the middle of a mental health crisis during this fatal encounter. He had recently gone through a rough breakup and was struggling with the isolation brought on by the pandemic. Without the in-person support of his friends he could normally turn to, Hall was in a bad place emotionally. 

Hall anonymously dialed 911 to report a possibly suicidal individual. When the state troopers arrived, it was reported that Hall was seen standing near a bridge with a “toy pellet gun,” suggesting that he was contemplating suicide.

PA State Police claimed that the teenager became uncooperative and began advancing towards them, pointing the gun directly at the troopers. In an act of self-defense against this perceived threat, they shot and killed Hall.

However, from the available police dash cam footage, the claim doesn’t hold up and has fueled many calls for the full footage to be released.

The police have only released snippets of the video, which are blurred. 

On Attorney Ben Crump’s website, a new petition has been posted, calling for the release of the full 90-minute dash cam footage of the interaction between Hall and police.

It has been over four months since Hall was killed, and his family has yet to see the full video, and no justice has been served.

The petition states that bystander footage clearly shows Hall holding his hands up and posing no threat to the officers, who were seen hiding behind their cars. 

“Their decision to shoot him was not one of impulse. It was not a split-second decision to protect themselves. Ending Christian’s life was a deliberate act of brutality against a young man who called for help,” the petition reads. 

The timeline

In early February, civil rights attorneys Ben Crump and Devon Jacob joined the case. Crump is a famous attorney best known for representing the families of Trayvon Martin and most recently, George Floyd.

The case gained more momentum in mid March as a crowd marched from Dansbury Park in East Stroudsburg to Courthouse Square in Stroudsburg, calling for justice for the Chinese-American teenager.

Hall’s mother, Fe, attended the march and spoke to the supporters about her son’s life, and his relationships with his family and the community. Fe and her husband, Gareth, adopted Hall from China when he was a baby.

The demonstration was organized by a Stroudsburg High School student named Jessica Brady, who made a point to mention how Hall’s death coincided with the ongoing increase in anti-Asian violence.

Just two days after the march, a gunman killed eight people, including six Korean-American women at spas in the Atlanta area. 

Justifying what can't be

On March 30, First Assistant District Attorney Michael Mancuso declared that the use of deadly force against Hall was justified, labelling it a “classic suicide by cop scenario.”

During the press conference, an audio recording of Hall’s 911 call was played, as well as a video of state police attempting to talk Hall down and directing him to let go of the pellet gun. 

The unedited portion of the video ends with Hall placing both hands in the air, and then the video blurs out as state police shoot him. 

Despite the lack of presented footage proving that Hall was pointing any weapon at the troopers, Mancuso stated it is not necessary. 

“There’s no requirement that a member of law enforcement wait for a weapon to be pointed directly at him or her before deadly force can be used,” he said. 

Changing the future

Frustrated, Hall’s family, their lawyers and supporters, including elected officials and activists, gathered in downtown Philadelphia for a rally and march on Saturday, April 10. 

State Rep. Maureen Madden announced that she and State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta are working on establishing a commission that would examine more appropriate and effective ways to respond to a mental health crisis. 

Hall’s cousin, Nicole Henriquez announced that the family is creating the Christian J. Hall Foundation to fight racism, promote mental health for adoptees, reform juvenile justice and reform how mental health issues are handled by police. 

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