Witnesses: Mentally Ill Man Did Not Have A Broomstick When Miami Gardens Police Killed Him

Apr 2, 2015

Catherine Daniels, left, and Marsha Brown, mothers of Lavall Hall, the mentally ill man shot dead by police in Miami Gardens, pose with a photo of Lavall Hall.
Credit Jose Iglesias / Miami Herald

Catherine Daniels blames herself for her son’s death.

The incident started around 4:30 in the morning. Daniels says her 25-year old son was having “an episode.” He was schizophrenic and bipolar.

On the morning of Feb 15,  he was waving around a broom and pacing in front of their pink home at 19157 NW Third Ave. in Miami Gardens. When she told him to come inside--he charged at her.

Daniels says she called Miami Gardens police around 5 a.m.

She told the two officers who responded, Peter Ehrlich and Eddo Trimino, her son was mentally ill.

“He was having an episode,” she says. “I didn’t know they were going to kill my baby.”

Daniels says she had a lot of trust in the police.  She knew she needed them to intervene.  A week before he was killed, two Miami Gardens officers responded to her home during another one of Hall’s episodes and helped her get him into a hospital.

“I don’t trust them no more,” she says.

The shooting prompted outrage and raised questions over whether police had to kill Hall.  In interviews with WLRN- Miami Herald News, two neighbors for the first time are publicly saying Hall did not have a broomstick when Officer Trimino shot him.

Police have been silent on whether or not Hall had the broomstick or some other weapon when he was shot.

Hall was shot around a corner a block from his house. He was face down with handcuffs on.

Tyrone Bennett lives next door to Daniels. He says he heard a commotion in the early morning hours of Feb. 15 and looked out his window to see Hall running from a police officer who was chasing him on foot. Another officer chased Hall in a marked car.

“When I look he ain’t have nothing in his hand,” Bennett says. "He had on boxers and a undershirt.”

He watched as Hall tussled with police on the ground in front of a house east of his home.

Police tased Hall, but he ripped the taser electrodes out and took off running around the corner out of Bennett's eyesight.

“By the time he got to that corner I’m looking out the window, my door---I got all the visuals. Soon as he hit the corner… less than a minute I heard gunshots.”

Bennett says no one has come to interview him about what he saw in those early morning hours befor Hall was killed.

“Why would they hear what I have to say that will put their law enforcement [practices] in jeopardy? They want to hear everything that benefits them,” he says from his backyard. “If it’s going against [their account], they won’t hear anything I have to say.”

Gregorio Marmolejo, another neighbor,  lives around the corner from where Hall lived.

He says he heard gunshots,  too. When he went looked out his front door he saw Hall’s lifeless body on the asphalt a few feet away from his home.

He  walks from his front door to the spot just past the sidewalk where he says Hall was killed.  

Marmolejo spreads out both arms and says, “I don’t see no broom in this area.”

Someone Marmolejo believes was a Miami Gardens detective wearing a white button-down shirt asked him about the brooms on his porch shortly after the shooting.

He says he told them they’re right where he left them earlier and appeared to be untouched.

Since that conversation, Marmolejo says he hasn’t spoken to investigators about what he saw the moments immediately after the shooting.

Neither Miami Gardens police nor Mayor Oliver Gilbert responded to interview requests.

Former Miami Gardens police chief Stephen Johnson, who was fired from the job  for soliciting a  prostitute, told the media at a press conference after the shooting,  that this is what happened:

Lavall Hall attacked the two responding officers -- Peter Ehrlich and Eddo Trimino -- with the broomstick.

Eddo Trimino

There was a chase and a tussle; the officers tased Hall but it had no effect.

Hall took off running around a corner, the officers gave chase.   Then as Hall turned and charged at Officer Tremino, Tremino fired his weapon five times.

Hall was struck in the arm and fatally shot in the chest.

Daniels says she and her family have many unanswered questions. If Hall, according to witness accounts, was not armed with a broomstick  after being tased and chased around the corner, “Why did the police shoot him?” she asked no one in particular as she sat in her living room on a black couch.

She points to the hallway where Hall’s room remains mostly untouched. His clothes are stacked in a basket in the closet. Two pairs of sneakers are near his bed.

Daniels can’t bring herself to go inside his room.

She’s constantly asking, “Why they had to kill my baby?”

She hasn’t gotten an answer. The investigation into Hall’s death continues. In the meantime, her questions haunt her.

“My baby didn’t have to die,” she cries. “My baby didn’t have to die.”