A former Contra Costa sheriff’s sergeant testified Tuesday that he was concerned about being shot by one of his deputies nearly three years ago as a slow-speed chase through Danville came to an abrupt, bloody, end in a fatal shooting.
The testimony came as the manslaughter trial of Contra Costa County sheriff’s Deputy Andrew Hall entered its second day, with Hall’s fellow deputies taking the stand and describing moment-by-moment the fatal shooting of Laudemer Arboleda, 33.
The scene of one officer taking the stand in another’s manslaughter trial was unique in that a Contra Costa County law enforcement officer has not previously faced felony charges after an on-duty police shooting.
Chris Martin, who has since retired from the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office, acknowledged finding himself in the line of fire on Nov. 3, 2018, while helping other officers respond to a slow-moving chase through the streets of Danville.
When the shooting ended, however, Martin was unscathed and Arboleda was mortally wounded.
The close call ended an unusual pursuit that lasted eight minutes and barely exceeded the town’s 25-mph speed limit, deputies testified.
“It was slow but it was very erratic,” said deputy Nicholas Muller. “Not your normal pursuit — lots of moving parts.”
Whether Hall acted reasonably is key to a case that has garnered widespread attention ever since Contra Costa District Attorney Diana Becton filed two and a half years after the shooting — a decision that prompted quick backlash from within her own office. Four of her prosecutors later penned a protest letter questioning the decision.
Hall also faces a felony charge of assault with a firearm.
Hall’s defense attorney, Harry Stern, honed in on whether the former sergeant thought Hall acted appropriately — repeatedly questioning Martin, the sergeant in charge that day, on the deputy’s actions.
In pointed questioning, Stern asked if the former sergeant thought his deputy was right to join the chase and park his vehicle in front of Arboleda’s car. Sheriff’s office policies stated that Hall needed prior approval, which he never received, to do so.
The former sergeant responded that he thought Hall was right for joining the chase and positioning his vehicle in front of Arboleda at the end of the pursuit.
“I would have approved” of him joining the pursuit, Martin said.