Police release video, transcripts of August shooting

Video: Footage of Sisters car chase and officer-involved fatality

By Shelby R. King / The Bulletin

Published Jan 9, 2014 at 12:01AM / Updated Jan 9, 2014 at 05:11AM

Oregon State Police patrol car dashboard camera footage and interview documents offer new details about the August 2013 fatal officer-involved shooting near Sisters.

What began as a routine traffic stop and a field sobriety test turned deadly when suspect William Hall, 34, of Arlington, Texas, struggled through several parts of the sobriety test before returning to his car, locking the door, waving a gun at police and fleeing the scene.

Shortly before 11 a.m. on Aug. 30, 2013, Major Travis Hampton pulled Hall over on suspicion of erratic speeding on U.S. Highway 20 near Suttle Lake, and Sr. Trooper William Duran arrived on scene shortly thereafter. Both troopers suspected Hall, who was covered in white supremacist-themed tattoos, was under the influence of a stimulant, though he passed the field sobriety test, according to a report released by Deschutes County District Attorney Patrick Flaherty in September. Police said he acted unusually nervous during the traffic stop, seemed transfixed on Duran’s holstered weapon during the stop and locked all the doors to his vehicle when performing the field sobriety tests.

Video from the dashboard camera shows Duran allowed Hall three tries at the horizontal gaze test — a test in which the officer moves an object, such as a pen light or finger, back and forth horizontally in front of the person’s eyes and requests the suspect follow the object without moving his head — during which time Hall struggled to keep his balance and follow instructions.

“Once again, it is really, really, really important that you focus on my fingertip, and that you follow it, OK?” Duran warned Hall in dashboard camera footage. “If you can’t focus and follow this the whole time without stopping, it tells me that you can’t follow directions, it tells me that you’re under the influence of something.”

Hall completed the horizontal gaze test and two other sobriety tests, and Duran asked him to wait while he talked to the observing trooper.

“I don’t think I truly have …” Duran said to Hampton before reaching to his shoulder and shutting off the audio capabilities on his recording device.

OSP Public Information Officer Gregg Hastings said troopers don’t often turn audio off during a stop, but said it is sometimes done and that Duran was following protocol by doing so.

“At the discretion of the trooper or supervisor, manual deactivation of the audio is permissible during non-enforcement activities such as conversing with a supervisor or other law enforcement officer when not engaged with the suspect/violator, protecting/investigating crash scenes, directing traffic, conducting truck inspections, prolonged motorist assists, or to maintain the anonymity of an informant, undercover officer or other confidential information source,” Hastings wrote in an email.

The audio was still off when the trooper resumed contact with Hall. It’s unclear what was said, but Hall’s hand gestures became increasingly animated before he turned, walked quickly back to his car and got in. The trooper followed him and appeared to try to open the driver’s door. The trooper then visibly jumped, likely because Hall brandished his gun, pulled his own weapon and retreated to a protected spot behind the open door of the patrol car. Hall then sped off and troopers began their pursuit.

Hall led several responding officers from multiple agencies on a chase through Sisters before turning off on Harrington Loop. Several hundred yards down the road Duran employed a pursuit intervention technique to debilitate Hall’s vehicle. The PIT move spun Hall’s vehicle around so Duran could see Hall’s silhouette through the tinted glass and later said he observed the gun — a silver-colored, semiautomatic 1911 — was shining “like a beacon,” according to the DA’s report.

The dashboard camera footage also captures a white car nearly caught in the shootout on Harrington Loop. The car is seen pulling off the left side of Harrington Loop, yielding to the suspect’s car and the pursuing officers. Footage from Martin’s camera shows an officer yelling to the driver of the white car to reverse out of the way. Though the car disappears from the screen, the transcripts indicate OSP First Sgt. David Pond told the driver to back up and pull in behind his car because law enforcement would need to interview the occupants later.

The video from Sr. Trooper Gary Martin’s dashboard camera captured footage after the stop when Duran and Hampton fired on the vehicle. Duran, who was positioned behind Hall’s car, commanded Hall to “drop the gun” several times and stated during an interview conducted on Sept. 5 that he observed Hall positioning himself to fire on Hampton, who was standing in line with the driver’s side window.

Duran and Hampton fired multiple rounds into Hall’s vehicle. The DA’s report found four of the rounds struck Hall and would have been fatal, but the medical examiner determined the fatal wound came from a self-inflicted gunshot to the head. The report states Hall had a pending warrant for his arrest in Texas and had vowed to commit suicide rather than go to prison.

Martin’s dashboard camera captured the shooting and law enforcement breaking the driver’s window to gain access to Hall. Officers struggled to break the window because of the glass tinting. Once inside, the audio picked up blaring music and one of the officers said Hall was still breathing. In interviews following the incident, multiple officers indicated the exit wound from Hall’s self-inflicted gunshot was severe enough to be fatal.

“I could actually see through that window, see the back of the guy’s head,” Pond said. “You could see brain matter or almost like a full brain sitting on the side of his head.”

Flaherty’s investigation determined the troopers were justified in their use of deadly physical force because it was “objectively reasonable for them to believe that Mr. Hall presented an imminent threat of causing serious physical injury or death to them and the third persons present during the roughly 15-minute duration of this event,” according to the report.

Both Duran and Hampton were put on paid administrative leave during the investigation and have since returned to work, Hastings said.

—Reporter: 541-383-0376, sking@bendbulletin.com