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Emotions still running high after Saginaw fatal police shooting

Justice still hasn’t been done in the case of a fatal police shooting of a mentally ill man in Saginaw this summer.

That was the message at a community forum this week, where some 200 residents came out to express frustration with local law enforcement, and with the county prosecutor for declining to press criminal charges against the officers. 

Among the mostly African American crowd at the forum, the primary question seemed to be: why was so much lethal force used on July 1st, the day Milton Hall was shot by police 11 times?

His mother, Jewel Hall, told an emotional crowd she still doesn’t have answers. “The execution of my son by what I call a firing squad was barbaric, [and] extremely cruel.”

Hall got into a standoff with police when officers responded to a call claiming a man had left a convenience store without paying for his coffee and spit on a clerk. Police car video shows Hall tapping the responding police vehicle with a knife.

Cell phone video taken by witnesses captures audio of the ensuing confrontation, with officers telling Hall to drop his knife, and Hall becoming agitated.

Police called for backup and some eight officers surrounded Hall. According to the county prosecutor’s report, all on-duty officers came to the scene. One officer called headquarters requesting non-lethal, “bean bag” guns, but report says the lieutenant on duty could not get into the locked room where those weapons were stored.  

As police continued to tell Hall to drop his knife, police car video shows Hall takes what appears to be a few steps towards an officer holding the leash of a police dog. At that point, several officers opened fire.

At the community forum, several people claimed to have witnessed the shooting from the parking lot. “Bullets just rang out,” says Ahjauni Owusu. “It was just multiple shots, and you could see the bullets as they was hitting his body.”

The county prosecutor concluded his investigation last week. He says the officers’ lives were endangered, and they will not face criminal charges.

Hall’s family says the US Department of Justice is still investigating Hall's death. Several speakers voiced frustration with what they describe as a lack of communication and respect between Saginaw’s African American community.  

Kate Wells is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently covering public health. She was a 2023 Pulitzer Prize finalist for her abortion coverage.