(BCN) — A Contra Costa County sheriff’s investigator told a jury Friday at a county coroner’s inquest that the last words spoken by 33-year-old African-American transient Tyrell Wilson were “Kill me.”
Former Danville Police Officer Andrew Hall then shot Wilson in the face. Wilson was holding a 4-inch pocket knife and walking toward Hall, who was backpedaling.
The civilian jury ruled unanimously that Wilson’s March 13, 2021 death came “at the hands of another person other than by accident.” Hall — currently in state prison for six years for a separate killing — responded to midday reports of a man fitting Wilson’s description throwing rocks off the Sycamore Valley Road overpass to southbound Interstate Highway 680 below. People in the courtroom, which included Wilson’s father, civil rights attorney John Burris, and Contra Costa County District Attorney Diana Becton, were shown videos from three separate angles of Hall confronting Wilson at the intersection of Sycamore Valley Road and Camino Ramon.
Hall repeatedly told Wilson to get out of the intersection, finally saying he wasn’t going to play “this game.” Wilson, whose uncle told investigators Wilson was bipolar and suffered from schizophrenia, refused multiple times. Wilson asked Hall multiple times who he was, even after Hall identified himself as a police officer. Video showed Wilson also asking “what country is this?”
Danville Police Officer Jay Melen, then a detective for the Sheriff’s Office, testified Hall later told him during interviews that Hall “was in fear of Mr. Wilson’s safety and wanted to get him to the other side of the intersection.”
Melen said Hall told investigators Hall noticed Wilson had a knife when the man stopped and turned to face Hall, who shouted for him to drop the knife. Wilson refused. As Wilson took two steps toward Hall, Hall took two steps back and fired his gun.
In the video, Wilson clearly said “kill me” twice, either while, or just before, he stepped toward Hall. Melen said Hall told him he didn’t use his pepper spray because of other people in the area and didn’t use his Taser stun gun because it likely wouldn’t work through Wilson’s heavy clothing. He said Hall stated he didn’t use other hand-to-hand measures because of Wilson’s size.
“He said he drew a line in the sand with Mr. Wilson,” Melen said, adding that Hall said he decided to use his gun once Wilson stepped toward him and began raising his arm holding the knife.
Investigators said a few weeks before the altercation, Wilson was thrown out of his uncle’s house in Pittsburg after a physical confrontation with his uncle, who told police at the time Wilson was mentally ill. Forensic pathologist Ikechi Ogan, who did Wilson’s autopsy, said marijuana was the only drug he found in Wilsons’s system.
Wilson’s father Marvin Wilson came from Texas for the hearing. The former Orange County corrections officer said after the hearing that his son was a star athlete in high school whose mental issues started after he suffered serious brain trauma in a car accident that killed his girlfriend.
Tyrell was airlifted to the hospital, where he spent weeks recovering. He went back to football for his senior year, after already receiving scholarship offers from multiple Division I college programs. But he was never the same player, or person, again.
“Suddenly he was making (weak) tackles and would say ‘Dad, I just didn’t want to hurt him.’ That fire was gone, like in ‘Top Gun’ when Tom Cruise lost his partner and was barely engaged.”
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The elder Wilson, now retired, said he’ll be back — especially if Becton decides to charge Hall with any crime. “He was my only son — my only child,” Wilson said. “I’ve got to be his voice until the end.”
Wilson was the second person fatally shot by Hall, who was convicted of assault with a firearm and sentenced this March for the 2018 fatal shooting of Laudemer Arboleda. The county has paid a total of $9.4 million in settlement money to Wilson’s and Arboleda’s families, even though Wilson’s killing is still being investigated.
The reason for the inquest, which is convened after a fatality involving law enforcement in Contra Costa County, is to present facts from the case to a jury for their deliberation and finding on the manner of death. At the coroner’s inquests, a jury can only choose from one of four options for the death — that it was an accident, suicide, natural causes, or the fourth option that the jury chose Friday, at the hands of another person other than by accident.
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