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Police Shot My Son Dead. Now I Want to Help Other Moms Avoid the Same Fate.

  • Taun Hall worked for years to get help for her son who was struggling with mental health issues.
  • The only resource she found was the police, but he was eventually killed by the police.
  • This is the story of her loss and attempts to make a change, as told to reporter Haven Orecchio-Egresitz.

This is an as-told essay based on a conversation with Taun Hall, Miles Hall’s mother, who was murdered by police in Walnut Creek, California, on June 2, 2019. Today she runs for The Miles Hall Foundation and co-sponsored bills to improve access to services for people experiencing a mental health crisis. The essay has been edited for length and clarity.

From the time he was a kid, my son Miles was smart and crazy with a magnetic personality that drew people to him. He had a particularly gentle soul and always thought about how his actions would make other people feel.

In fact, he was so gentle that if there was an insect in the house, he would put it outside. He wouldn’t hurt a spider.

And just as he wanted to protect others from harm, I, as his mother, wanted to protect him.

As he entered his senior year of high school, my husband and I started seeing red flags that worried us.

Miles, who went to high school with a “scholar GPA,” wasn’t interested in making plans for after graduation.

That seemed odd in our house, where my husband, Miles’ younger sister, and I all appreciated the importance of college and education.

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So when he couldn’t find that drive, we realized we had to keep an eye on why he suddenly seemed uninterested in school.

It turned out that this was the first sign of serious mental health problems. After graduation, Miles began to experience delusions. He was ranting about the bible and as we are not particularly religious this was strange and we didn’t understand what was going on.

But when he started knocking on our neighbors’ doors – introducing himself as Jesus – we knew we had to help him. Fast.

But my son didn’t think he was sick and wouldn’t listen to our pleas to get psychological help. By this time, he was over 18 — and as sick as he was — he was considered an adult by the state.

I wanted to be proactive, not reactive, so I started taking classes with the National Alliance of Mental Disease to get ideas about how to deal with someone who is mentally ill but doesn’t know they are ill.

I also started building a relationship with the local police mental health liaison.

Over the next three years, I contacted the department several times when Miles began to have delusions or behaving strangely.

I wanted to let them know that my son is African American, that we live in a white neighborhood and that he knocks on people’s doors.

I wanted people to know that he belongs here, he is part of this community.

I wanted them to know not to be afraid.

Miles Hall

Miles Hall was shot by police in front of his home in 2019. His mother had worked for the police for years to prevent exactly that nightmare.

Taun Hall

Long stretches of normality, then a relapse

Miles joined in for a while. He was doing well. He certainly showed signs of mental illness, but it wasn’t very extreme.

I didn’t want to call the police for every problem. We wanted to arrange it ourselves.

But in April 2018, Miles started knocking on doors again, so I contacted the mental health officer again.

She told me they couldn’t get involved unless he wasn’t a danger to himself, others, or seriously ill.

If that were the case, the officer said, I might be able to get him into involuntary treatment.

There, mental health professionals could adjust their medication. They could help him.

If several of these interactions were documented, she said, I could apply for conservatory and finally have a say in his treatment plan.

A few months later, Miles entered a neighbor’s pool without permission. When the police showed up, I saw the silver lining inside. This erratic behavior could show law enforcement, and later a judge, that the conservatory was a good idea.

Miles was sent to an inpatient treatment center for a few weeks and given injectable medication.

He was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, which explained his behavior.

When he came back, he got a job he loved. He did great. He made friends and went out. He was an ordinary man. It was like having our old Miles back.

But then a problem arose: the criminalization of people with mental illness in our country was a blow to the progress our family had made.

After working for three months, police filed charges against Miles for that incident in 2018 because they said he resisted arrest when they arrived on the scene.

I couldn’t understand how that could happen when I worked so closely with the department. How could they file charges? I thought we were working together to help my son.

Miles became paranoid and stress over the criminal charges took over his life. He told me that he wanted to quit his job because he was convinced he would go to jail, although I was almost certain that the case would be solved without such a harsh sentence.

I wanted to ease this burden on my son, so I wrote a big old letter to the public defender. I explained that the police were supposed to be called because he has a mental illness, and we were trying to help him – not because he’s a criminal.

police tape

Taun Hall believes that the police are not necessary in most mental health emergencies.

Getty Images

What was a nightmare became our reality

Miles continued to spiral and in May 2019 he was in full-blown psychosis.

He thought he was Jesus again. He ran around with a ton of energy, plants in the garden.

I called the non-emergency police on Saturday, June 1, to let the officers know that Miles was in crisis again. I made the call for his safety, not theirs. He wouldn’t hurt anyone.

At no point did anyone give us another resource, and the next day Miles found herself in a full-blown mental health emergency.

He was in a hallucinatory delusion, and a well-meaning neighbor let him borrow a garden tool.

He went to our window and broke the door. It was the first time Miles had ever done anything physically aggressive.

My mom who lives with us called 911 and Miles yelled at us to get out of the house.

To spread the situation, we did that.

Then he started knocking on the doors of the neighbors and one of them also called 911, also letting them know he was in crisis and needed help.

The psychiatrist called me and said she was on her way to the crime scene. But she came too late.

The officers who arrived before her saw Miles lying on the road with his tools. They ordered him to go to the ground, but he did not go. He started running to our house – which was behind the officers – and they saw him as a threat.

They shot and killed him in the street.

All the work I did to prevent this exact nightmare was in the blood.

Making the change

After two years of trying to help Miles and using whatever resources there were – law enforcement – to help someone who didn’t understand they were sick, we had to criminalize our child.

It was devastating because it killed Miles.

His presence, his crazy jokes, his caring spirit are missed every day.

Since then, my family has made sure that no one has to live with this kind of trauma.

We founded The Miles Hall Foundation, which advocates for change. As part of that I co-sponsored California account AB 988. The bill, which sits on Governor Gavin Newsom’s desk waiting to be signed, will link the national 988 crisis hotline to mobile response teams.

When this goes into effect, people going through a crisis or their loved ones will be able to call anywhere in California the 988 number and behavioral experts and colleagues will be sent to the scene to de-escalate the situation. The goal is to find immediate and follow-up behavioral health care for the person.

Cities across the country have started the implementation these crisis response groups, who respond instead of the police. The California bill aims to improve its transmission.

Police officers aren’t trained to work in the mental health field – and many of them don’t want to spend their shifts answering these types of calls. They didn’t sign up for that.

Presumably they wanted to become police to work with criminals, and people like my son are not criminals.

It was nice to have a voice in these conversations and in writing legislation that can help other moms.

It might not be exactly everything I’d want in a bill, but I know if we’d had something like this the day before Miles was killed, it would have made a difference.

Maybe he’s still alive.



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