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Police killing of Christian Hall leads to 911 study

Plus, deaths of older adults after neglect, abuse claims see a sharp increase.

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Friday, December 29, 2023
In today's edition: 911 study, increased deaths, sick times, avoiding accountability, and fewer Democrats. We're off Monday. We'll see you Tuesday.
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Pennsylvania lawmakers have approved funding to study how the 911 system can better help people who are experiencing a mental health crisis.

The study will look into ways for 911 dispatchers to send crisis responders rather than police to someone having a mental health emergency. It will also examine how the 911 system might integrate into the new 988 system, a nationwide suicide and crisis hotline that launched in July 2022.
The study was championed by the family of Christian Hall, a 19-year-old who was shot and killed by a Pennsylvania State Police trooper on Dec. 30, 2020.

Read Spotlight PA's full report: Three years ago, a police officer killed Christian Hall. Now, the legislature will study the role of 911 in mental health emergencies.

THE CONTEXT: Hall called 911 to report a potential suicide in progress, and police arrived to find Hall standing on a bridge with what was later determined to be a pellet gun.

Authorities at the time said the shooting was justified and that it was a "classic suicide by cop scenario." But a 2021 investigation by Spotlight PA and NBC News found that Hall had his hands in the air for 14 seconds before he was killed by police.

At a vigil held this month in Hall's honor, his parents spoke about the expanded mental health resources they believe could have saved his life.

“Bullets should not be the only resort,” Fe Hall said at the vigil. “Bullets should not be the first resort.”
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“Pittsburgh has a lot of these smaller buildings that are currently sitting vacant, and it provides a great opportunity for conversion.”

—Brett Walsh, a principal at Pittsburgh-based developer Hullett Properties, said of the effort to turn the city's downtown offices into homes

Neshaminy Creek overflows the causeway in Tyler State Park, via Yoma U. Have a Pennsylvania photo to share? Send us photos by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.

Neshaminy Creek overflows the causeway in Tyler State Park
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.DEATH CASES: Between 2017 and 2022, Pennsylvania saw a more than tenfold increase in deaths of older adults following complaints of abuse or neglect, the Associated Press reports. The increase — 120 deaths in 2017 to about 1,400 in 2022 — seems to have had several contributing factors, the AP reports, including the COVID-19 pandemic, the growing population of people 65 and older in Pennsylvania, and more complaints.

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.SICK SEASON: Cases of COVID-19 and the flu are on the rise, and vaccination rates are low, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns. Experts worry that hospital capacity could be strained if the number of COVID-19 and flu patients peak at the same time, WHYY reports. While things aren't as bad as last winter, "COVID-19 remains an unpredictable wild card," one doctor told WHYY.

Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.
FAKE ADDRESS: At least 25 construction companies have used a Castor Avenue address in Northeast Philadelphia as their headquarters, despite never having been located there. The companies have racked up lawsuits alleging destroyed or damaged homes, OSHA reports of workers being harmed or killed, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines. But they've largely avoided accountability "by changing their names and moving on," an Inquirer (paywall) investigation found.
Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.ALLEGED ASSAULT: Clarice Schillinger, a conservative activist for the "parental rights" school movement and one-time candidate for Pennsylvania lieutenant governor, was charged with assault, harassment, and giving alcohol to minors stemming from an event at her Bucks County home in September, phillyburbs.com reports. Schillinger allegedly punched a teenager at her underage daughter's birthday party, which reportedly involved alcohol. Her lawyer, according to the news organization, has denied the charges.

Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.FLIP FLOP: Voter registration data from the Pennsylvania Department of State reveals that 35,589 registered Democrats have changed their party affiliation to Republican, potentially a warning sign for President Joe Biden, Newsweek reports. Of registered Republicans, 15,622 have switched to the Democratic party. About 40,000 former Democrats and Republicans are now unaffiliated. All told, it's a net loss of almost 20,000 Democrats in Pennsylvania.
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OUTDOOR REC: State College-based company Purple Lizard Maps has released a new statewide map detailing state parks and forests, rail trails, and whitewater destinations all over Pennsylvania, WPSU reports.

ON GUARD: Working dogs showed off their skills in comforting passengers and keeping them safe at the Philadelphia International Airport this week, The Inquirer reports.

EAGLES CHRISTMAS: The Philadelphia Eagles Christmas album, A Philly Special Christmas Specialraised more than $2.5 million for local organizations, according to 6ABC.

PAW PATROL: Dog license fees are increasing in 2024 to help pay for more state dog wardens to enforce license and rabies vaccination requirements, PennLive reports.

GREEN BIZ: Pittsburgh's Greenfield neighborhood is getting a cidery that also sells houseplants, per the Pittsburgh Union Progress.
Unscramble and send your answer to scrambler@spotlightpa.org. We'll shout out winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag. Answers submitted by 5:30 p.m. on issue date will be counted.

Yesterday's answer: Phosphoric

Congrats to our daily winners: Don H., Richard A., Jon W., Stacy S., Susan N., Elaine C., Becky C., William Z., Alan B., Judith D., Dennis M., David W., Tom M., Jane R., Wendy A., Cosette J., Kimberly D., Daniel M., Jody A., and Dan A.
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