More than 100 supporters from throughout the town and Bay Area gathered with the family of Laudemer Arboleda outside the Danville Library to mark the third anniversary of his death on Wednesday.
"The life of Laudemer Arboleda doesn't belong to Officer (Andrew) Hall," said Jeannie Atienza, mother of the 33-year-old Filipino American man from Newark who died in a police-involved shooting in Danville on Nov. 3, 2018 that a jury 10 days ago deemed to be criminal assault by Deputy Hall. "It belongs to God. He had no right to do that."
"He was my youngest one, my companion and my baby," Atienza said.
Reflecting on her son's life, Atienza said that at 3 years old Arboleda was pronounced dead from complications due to meningitis but revived by doctors.
"My doctor told me that you might have a problem with him later on," Atienza said. "But he was never violent. Very gentle, very thoughtful."
Arboleda’s sister, Jennifer Leong, said her brother was diagnosed with paranoia, but that despite numerous signs that something was wrong, every effort to find him appropriate help came up short.
"The mental health system failed us," Leong said. "We begged everyone for help, for anything. It failed us. We had a social worker. It failed us."
Atienza and Leong said that the family had tried to contact police in the past to help Arboleda, after being directed to do so through other services.
"We said he's not in the right mind, they said as long as he's not hurting anyone or threatening anyone … it just failed us tremendously," Leong said.
On that fateful Saturday in November 2018, police did respond to a call regarding Arboleda -- from a Danville resident who'd seen him walking in town and thought he appeared suspicious. The encounter ultimately led to a slow-speed vehicle pursuit with police and his death from nine bullets fired by Hall on the edge of downtown.
Atienza said her son was always shy, and had been known for running away from strangers as a child.
"My neighbor would say, 'How come your son would run away when I saw him?'" Atienza said. "He was scared. That's why he ran away. And that's what happened when he was being chased by the police."
Atienza said she did not have any patience for arguments from the defense attorneys for Hall, the Contra Costa County sheriff's deputy assigned to the Danville Police Department who was convicted of assault with a firearm in Arboleda's death on Oct. 26 during a widely publicized trial.
"It's not self defense," Atienza said. "It's common sense – 10 rounds of bullets, and a semi-automatic pistol. You know it's not self defense."
"Officer Hall seemed like he had it in mind that he was going to teach the other officers how to handle a situation like that," added Atienza's brother-in-law, Greg Miller.
The same jury deadlocked on the charge of voluntary manslaughter against Hall, whose attorneys contended the fatal shooting was justifiable self-defense.
"They should know how to de-escalate the situation, not just kill to end the pursuit," Atienza said.
Despite Hall's felony assault conviction and a $4.9 million civil settlement reached with the county government last week, Atienza also remained firm that she did not agree with the final verdict, in which a mistrial was declared on the manslaughter count.
"I hope that Andrew Hall will be put in jail," Atienza said. "There's no closure until justice is served, and it will be less painful to know that justice is served. But as of now, it's not being served."
Atienza and her family said that they would continue to push the Contra Costa County District Attorney's Office to pursue a retrial of Hall’s manslaughter charge in January, and to advocate that he not be allowed to continue working in law enforcement in any capacity.
Arboleda's supporters said they were pleased that charges were finally brought against Hall, in April of this year. However, they noted that it was bittersweet -- in that the decision was announced the day after the murder conviction of now-former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for on-duty killing George Floyd, which led to increased scrutiny of police violence throughout the country and worldwide, yet nearly three years after they’d first begun struggling to bring a case against Hall.
In addition, Hall went on to be involved in a shooting incident leading to the death of another man in Danville with a history of mental health troubles, Tyrell Wilson, in March of this year.
Longtime Danville resident Veronica Benjamin said that she had first learned about the Arboleda shooting when preparing to speak at a Black Lives Matter event in Danville last year, and was reawakened to the problem of police violence when she heard about Wilson's death.
"I totally got caught up in my life, until Tyrell, because I used to see Tyrell every day," said Benjamin, co-founder of Conscious Contra Costa, which helped organize Wednesday's vigil for Arboleda. "He was around every single day at the bus stop in the morning."
Although Benjamin said she let Wilson, who was unhoused, have his space and never had a conversation with him, news of his death hit close to home, when she heard that a Black man carrying shopping bags had been shot during an altercation with police in Danville.
"My father and Tyrell kind of look similar, like very, very generally, and my father often shops with a paper shopping bag," Benjamin said.
After being assured that her father was safe, Benjamin said that she knew it must have been Wilson who was shot. "...There's only two Black men in like a mile radius," Benjamin said. "It was either my dad or that guy. And I didn't even know his name."
Wilson's death spurred Benjamin into continuing racial justice activism that she had only just become savvy to the year before, during the 2020 Black Lives Matter event in which she'd learned about Arboleda's death while preparing to speak to the crowd after organizers invited people of color who'd grown up in Danville to share their experiences.
"It was a transformative moment, because I did not realize how much trauma I carried, having been brought up here as a brown person," Benjamin said. "Because I studied philosophy. I've been reading existentialists since I was 12. And so I just thought...alienation is part of the human condition. It is. But there's like that extra layer … There's other reasons to feel alienated, especially in this town. "
Benjamin said she asked a crowd of roughly 150 people that day in June 2020 how many had heard about Arboleda’s death and perhaps five people had raised their hands.
Benjamin was further motivated to organize when she learned that Hall, the same officer, had fired the fatal bullet in Wilson's death. She commended Danville Police Chief Allan Shields for having listened to her concerns about Hall last year, once she'd learned about his involvement in the 2018 shooting he was convicted of assault for last week, but was disappointed that he wasn’t able to take action.
"I said 'Hall is dangerous; I don't feel safe having that man around,'" Benjamin said.
"That's also why when what happened to Tyrell happened, I thought ok, we need to be organized," Benjamin said. "Organization is key. Because people acting alone can do nothing. They can just ignore us."
Benjamin, as well as Arboleda’s family, said they also want to see charges brought against Hall for Wilson's death. The DA's office is still investigating that case.