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Parents sue State Police, DA in teen's fatal shooting

Plus, judge ousts school board members over mask rule.


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Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
March 31, 2022
Legal action, removed from office, busy banks, regulatory check, surprise verdict, and 'keep your jawn off the lawn.' It's Thursday.
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The parents of Christian Hall, a Chinese American teenager who was fatally shot by Pennsylvania State Police while experiencing a mental health crisis, have filed a lawsuit alleging authorities tried to hinder public scrutiny of the killing with misleading statements and edited footage.

The federal suit filed Wednesday names four troopers, Monroe County, Monroe County's district attorney and assistant district attorney, and State Police Commissioner Robert Evanchick as defendants.

It claims troopers used excessive force and that the DA's office misled the public with redacted videos and claims that Hall pointed what turned out to be a pellet gun at troopers before he was fatally shot near Stroudsburg.

The suit comes months after Spotlight PA and NBC News published unredacted video of the shooting that shows Hall had his hands above his head, the pellet gun in one, when troopers opened fire.

Troopers from outside the local barracks investigated the killing and turned the findings over to the Monroe County district attorney, who ruled it justified, saying the lives of the troopers on scene were in danger.

THE CONTEXT: The Hall family claims that the initial State Police press release on the shooting, which said Hall, 19, pointed the pellet gun at troopers before he was shot, was intentionally misleading with the goal of thwarting public oversight and pressuring Hall's parents not to sue.

In the lawsuit filed Wednesday, the family is seeking compensation for violations of their legal rights, Hall's death, pain and suffering, other damages, and attorney's fees. A specific amount is not listed in the filing.

Attorneys for the Hall family, Devon Jacob and Ben Crump, who also represented the family of George Floyd, said of the lawsuit, "We obtained justice for George Floyd and we will obtain justice for Christian Hall."

A statement from Monroe County District Attorney E. David Christine Jr. and Assistant District Attorney Michael Mancuso defends their actions, with Mancuso adding: "The attempts by the attorneys to mislead the public and now the filing of a frivolous suit ... is yet another example that they are motivated not by the pursuit of justice but the allure of monetary gain." 

"I think it's important, if you're going to say something like that, to name some names."

—U.S. Rep. Scott Perry (R., Pa.) on fellow Freedom Caucus member and U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R., N.C.) claiming colleagues offered him drugs and orgies; Cawthorn reportedly walked the claim back in private
A sure sign of spring, courtesy of @yatskoSend us your gems, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
OFFICIALLY OUSTED: A group of West Chester Area School District parents equipped with an obscure school code provision has succeeded in getting five Democratic school board members who imposed mask mandates removed from office. Judge William Mahon said his ruling stems from the district's failure to respond to the parents' petition. Similar petitions are pending elsewhere, WHYY reports.

EMERGENCY FOOD: More people are flocking to food pantries in the Philadelphia area and elsewhere as inflation pushes food costs higher, pandemic-era safety nets expire, and gasoline prices eat further into household budgets, per The Inquirer. "People were able to hang in there during the pandemic because of federal help," Pastor Patricia Neale said. "But they flat out cannot afford groceries anymore."

FEE FIGHT: A bill curbing efforts to rein in carbon emissions by Pennsylvania environmental regulators has passed the state House in a 126-72 vote, with 18 Democrats in favor and three Republicans opposed. The Senate-bound bill blocks the Wolf administration from enacting carbon pricing without legislative approval, impeding entry into a program at the heart of Wolf's climate change plan.

TRIAL VERDICT: A former Poconos police officer has been found not guilty of raping a woman he arrested for drunk driving. Prosecutors cited DNA evidence, a power imbalance, and Steven Mertz's pledge to make the charges go away in exchange for sexual favors. Mertz called it a dereliction of duty but nothing more. He was found guilty of bribery and obstruction of justice, per the Pocono Record.

FOCAL POINT: Energy was a constant theme in the first shared public appearance of Pennsylvania's highest-profile GOP U.S. Senate candidates. So was criticism of front-runner Mehmet Oz, per the AP. "You should all ask yourself, 'why is everyone attacking me?'" Oz told the crowd at the Manufacturer & Business Association forum in Erie. "Because you're a liberal," opponent Kathy Barnette said.
I-81 CRASH: State Police now say six people were killed and 24 injured in an 80-vehicle pileup on I-81 in Schuylkill County on Monday. The road was reopened early Wednesday and identities of the victims will be released once families are notified, state police said, via the Associated Press.

BOOSTER SHOT: Another round of COVID-19 booster shots has been approved for everyone 50 or older and some younger people who are immunocompromised. NPR has factors worth weighing.

DATA BREACH: UPMC will begin making payments to 66,000 employees who were victims of a 2014 data breach starting today. TribLIVE reports the payments, part of a legal settlement, range from $10 to $20.

CAPTAIN DELCO: "Keep your jawn off the lawn," says Delaware County's anti-littering municipal mascot, an anthropomorphized land mass with cutoff shorts. The Inquirer's Stephanie Farr found a photo of it in the wild

FULL RETRO: If you need me I'll be taking spins through 90s-era Cumberland County and 80s-era Wyoming County thanks to first-generation home video equipment and the randomness of the internet. 
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.

*This week's theme: Grammar
Yesterday's answer: Superlative

Congrats to our daily winners: Bonnie R., Becky C., Barbara F., Craig W., Michelle T., Don H., Keith F., Irene R., Marisa B., Susan D., Vicki U., Elaine C., Susan N.-Z., Bette G., Matt P., Deb N., Kimberly S., David S., Judith D., Kyle C., David W., Tish M., Jude M., George S., Jill A.-S., James B., Judy M., Joel S., Dianne K., Bill S., Elizabeth W., Steve H., Kim C., Suzanne S., Eddy Z., Kate S., Starr B., John A., Robert S., and Pat B.
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