Police shooting in focus
Video sheds new light, but questions persist
— A now-retired Maryland State Police trooper who fatally shot a wanted man during a struggle in the Walmart parking lot near North East in August 2015 did not immediately render medical assistance to that man — although eyewitnesses indicated and a video shows that he appeared to be alive in the moments after the shooting, according to docu-
ments and footage released by MSP.
However, those witnesses also told investigators that now-retired MSP Trooper Daryl K. Brackett was distracted by the suspect’s hysterical wife in the moments after shooting Charles Samuel Hall, 30, of North East.
The released video shows Brackett and then another trooper trying to keep the woman at bay.
On Monday, at the conclusion of an Internal Affairs Unit investigation, MSP officials publicized summaries
of eyewitness accounts and a recap of Brackett’s version, in addition to video gleaned from an exterior Walmart surveillance camera and an MSP dashboard camera. Autopsy findings and other documents also were released.
But those officials are not at liberty to reveal the outcome of the IAU probe, which was aimed at determining if Brackett had adhered to agency “rules, regulations and policies” during the incident in which Hall was fatally shot by him about 8:45 p.m. Aug. 21, 2015, in the Northeast Plaza parking lot, a short distance from Walmart’s Home & Living entrance at the southern end of the store.
“I am not able to say one way or another what the findings are,” Greg Shipley, an MSP spokesman, told the Whig on Monday night, several hours after he had issued a press release explaining, “The IAU investigation is confidential under Maryland personnel law and findings of that investigation cannot be disclosed.”
MSP officials also reported that Brackett had retired from the force on May 1. At the time of the fatal policeinvolved shooting, Brackett was a three-year veteran assigned to the North East Barrack.
The Whig was unable to reach Brackett since the video’s release, but the former trooper told the Baltimore Sun on Monday that he served six years in the Army and was deployed to Iraq in 2011. Brackett told the newspaper that the incident had worsened his post-traumatic stress disorder and that, coupled with threats against him and his family, led to his retirement.
In the written statement released Monday, MSP officials also revealed that a civil lawsuit is underway, but they did not specify.
In November, after review- ing reports filed by investigators and other evidence, the Cecil County State’s Attorney’s Office cleared Brackett of any criminal wrongdoing, concluding that he had acted in self-defense and that the shooting was “justified.”
The MSP IAU started its probe to determine if Brackett had violated any departmental policies and procedures after the CCSAO had released its findings, Shipley said. It is common for an IAU probe to start after prosecutors have determined whether the law enforcement officer in question had violated any criminal laws, he added.
A trooper charged administratively of violating agency regulations and then found guilty by a departmental hearing board could face a wide range of disciplinary action, from receiving a written reprimand to dismissal from the force, according to Shipley.
In the written statement, police officials explain, “The Maryland State Police has a clear policy concerning the use of deadly force. That policy details when deadly force may be used and what a trooper’s duties are following the use of deadly force. Troopers receive training about the use of deadly force annually.”
The MSP operations directive addressing the “use of deadly force” lists several instances when it can be used by a trooper, including selfdefense and when “every other reasonable means of effecting the arrest have been exhausted.”
It also addresses required “actions after using force,” including “secure the scene to the best of his ability” and “render aid within his level of training.”
Although Brackett had retired more than five months ago, the IAU only recently completed its administrative investigation into the matter, he noted.
The incident Shortly after the fatal shooting, MSP officials provided this general synopsis of the incident:
While driving through the Walmart parking lot, Brackett recognized Hall and knew that he was wanted by the Cecil County Sheriff’s Office for theft. Brackett parked his patrol car adjacent to Hall’s parked Chevrolet Equinox and attempted to arrest Hall, but the wanted man resisted and began fighting with the trooper.
At some point, Hall got into his vehicle and began to accelerate.
As Hall began to accelerate, he still was struggling with Brackett, who was partially inside the vehicle, facing Hall. Facing the possibility of being dragged by the vehicle or disarmed, Brackett fired two shots into Hall with his agency-issued .40-caliber handgun at close range.
One bullet struck Hall in the lower neck while the other hit him below his left armpit. Hall was pronounced dead at the scene at 9:09 p.m.
Investigators found a “large folding knife” inside the center console of Hall’s vehicle. They also found heroin, cocaine and prescription oxycodone inside Hall’s vehicle. The videos One of the written documents released Monday is MSP Det. Sgt. David Sexton’s interpretation of the Walmart surveillance video, starting with Brackett pulling up to Hall’s vehicle and walking over the Hall and his wife, who are loading packages into the rear of their Equinox.
“I could see Brackett talking to Hall and then Hall backing up and getting into the driver’s (seat). I then observed Brackett standing beside Hall between the driver’s side door and Hall. Although it is difficult to see inside the driver’s compartment, I could tell Trooper Brackett and Hall were having an altercation. Hall’s vehicle then lurches forward, as if he is taking off and it looked like Trooper Brackett was being drug. The vehicle only traveled eight to 10 feet then stopped. It appears Trooper Brackett is still fighing with Hall and then Trooper Brackett suddenly backs out and tries to keep Hall’s wife away from the vehicle,” Sexton outlines.
Sexton concludes the shooting occurred seconds before Brackett exited the Equinox.
“Trooper Brackett was no longer concerned about Hall and more concerned about keeping (Hall’s) wife from the crime scene,” he reviews.
Sexton also viewed video taken from dash camera of MSP Trooper Jose Rubio, who arrived to assist Brackett, and it showed what occurred seconds after the shooting.
“I observed Hall’s wife trying to go past Brackett to get to her husband and Brackett pushing her away and telling Rubio to control her. Trooper Brackett is then seen going to Hall, who is in distress and incapacitated, and he seems to be talking to him and using his radio. Trooper Brackett does not appear to provide any medical or life saving techniques at this time and it is several minutes before an off-duty deputy who is an EMT arrives and assists the troopers,” Sexton explains.
Eyewitness accounts Brackett repeatedly ordered Hall to stop struggling and warned Hall that he would shoot him if he didn’t comply, according to several civilian eyewitnesses interviewed by MSP investigators.
“Once she heard Trooper Brackett yell, ‘ I’m going to shoot you,’ she heard the shots about 30 seconds later. (The witness) explained, before the shots were fired, Trooper Brackett was struggling with the driver ... (The witness) further stated she saw a woman in a bandana yelling that the person (Hall) the trooper shot was her husband. I asked (the witness) if she observed troopers providing medical treatment to the driver and she advised she only observed the medics arrive in an ambulance and start to perform CPR on him, once they pulled him from the car,” Sexton wrote in his synopsis.
That woman also told investigators that “once crime scene personnel arrived, she could not see what was happening, except for seeing a woman in the crowd try to jump the police line and attack a trooper,” Sexton noted in his synopsis of her account.
MSP investigators interviewed at least 11 civilian eyewitnesses who, at the time of the incident, were located at various vantage points in the Walmart parking lot or in front of the store.
Their accounts are generally consistent regarding Hall ignoring commands and warnings uttered by Brackett, Hall getting into the driver’s seat and then struggling with Brackett; the vehicle dragging Brackett when it moved forward and Brackett and other troopers not rendering aid to Hall after the shooting.
There are inconsistencies, too. Mainly they relate to the duration of the entire incident, ranging from a couple of minutes to 10 minutes; how far the vehicle moved forward, ranging from 4 to 10 feet, and the time that transpired from Brackett’s last warning and him firing two rapid shots, ranging from a few seconds to 30 seconds. One witness thought she heard “three or four” shots.
A different account The account given by Hall’s wife, Megan Hall, was different than the others. She was outside the vehicle during the struggle.
Megan told investigators that Hall started to get out of the driver’s seat “but began wrestling with the trooper,” who then sat on Hall’s lap with his back to him after Hall fell back into the driver’s seat, according to Taylor’s synopsis.
At that point, according to the synopsis, Brackett discharged pepper spray two times and it caused Hall to “flounder around in the car.”
“As (Hall) began violently moving in the driver’s seat, the car jumped approximately three feet. Megan theorized that (Hall’s) knee must have put the vehicle in gear. She stated that (Hall’s) hands were not on the steering wheel. His hands were being used to fight of the OC spray that allegedly was deployed. When the vehicle stopped, the Trooper pulled his gun and stated, ‘I’m going to shoot you.’ She claimed that (Hall) was not struggling with the Trooper during the incident,” Taylor wrote.
She estimated that there was “a five second delay from the Trooper’s warning until the shots were fired,” and maintained that Brackett, with his back to Hall’s chest, “had to turn while sitting on Hall’s lap to fire his weapon,” according to the synopsis. She told investigators that Brackett put the gun to Hall’s neck and then chest, firing both times.
Investigators found no evidence inside or outside the vehicle that Brackett had discharged pepper spray, however, according to the reports released Monday. Moreover, investigators weighed Brackett’s confiscated pepper spray canister and it weighed approximately the same as a full pepper spray canister, according to those documents.
Brackett’s account Brackett told investigators that he was “in fear for his life” during the struggle,” believing that Hall was “going to take off and crash this car,” so he pulled his gun and pointed it at Hall, according to a synopsis by Sexton.
“Hall reached up and grabbed onto the slide of his gun and pushed it back with enough force that he could see the end of the casing and the primer of the live round in the chamber. Trooper Brackett ripped the gun out of Hall’s hand and shouted, ‘No Charles I’m going to shoot you!’ ... Trooper Brackett felt the car take off at a high rate of speed and felt his legs dragging. At that point, Brackett pointed his gun at Hall and, just before Hall tried to reach up and grab the gun again, Trooper Brackett fired one shot and then punched out (reloaded) and fired another shot,” Sexton wrote.
Investigators later found Hall’s DNA on Brackett’s gun, according to documents released Monday.
Brackett also told investigators that, immediately after the shooting, he could “feel Hall’s wife behind him and she was yelling at him, calling him a murderer and saying he shot an unarmed man. When she got too close, he put her down on the ground and instructed Trooper Rubio, who had just arrived, to get her out of the area.”
Then he focused on Hall, who was unresponsive.
“Trooper Brackett advised he heard too many people around him screaming at him and waited for backup to arrive before he could focus his attention on medical treatment for Hall because he was still in fear and wanted the scene to be secure,” Sexton outlined.
Asked by investigators if he could have simply let go of Hall during the struggle, Brackett explained he was thinking about the lives of others in the area if there had been a car chase.
Asked if he could have used pepper spray instead of his gun, Brackett replied that, in such close proximity, he would have felt the effects, too, and would have been at a “tactical disadvantage.”
Maryland State Police detectives conduct their crime scene investigation after a fatal police-involved shooting in the Walmart parking lot near North East in August 2015.
Maryland State Police released dash camera footage from the 2015 fatal Walmart shooting, which shows a delay in medical care from the trooper in question.