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State trooper justified in fatally shooting man in Cecil County last year, prosecutors find

A Maryland state trooper was justified in fatally shooting a 30-year-old man last year during a struggle outside a Wal-Mart in Cecil County, prosecutors said.

The Cecil County state's attorney's office cleared Trooper Daryl Brackett, 29, in the shooting death of Charles Hall of North East in August 2015.

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"The state finds no criminal wrongdoing by Trooper Brackett, and we consider this matter closed," Deputy State's Attorney Steven Trostle wrote in a letter dated Nov. 15, 2015. It was obtained Monday by The Baltimore Sun through a Maryland Public Information Act request.

State police said they would not comment on the matter, citing a pending lawsuit. The agency did not discuss the nature of the suit.

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Brackett told investigators he was patrolling the North East Plaza shopping center on Aug. 21, 2015, when he saw Hall and pulled up, according to a synopsis of the interview, also obtained through the Public Information Act request.

Brackett said he ran Hall's name and found an open warrant, then approached Hall as the man was loading items into his car.

Hall "started fumbling in his pockets for his keys and jumped in his car," Brackett told investigators.

He said he blocked the car door and tried to pull Hall out. He said Hall was trying to put the car into drive as he was ordering him out.

Brackett said he hit the man's arms to break Hall's grip on the steering wheel. Brackett told investigators the two men struggled and the trooper pulled out his gun. He told investigators that Hall grabbed for the weapon and he "felt the car take off at a high rate of speed and felt his legs drag."

"Trp. Brackett pointed his gun at Hall and just before Hall tried to reach up and grab the gun again, Trp. Brackett fired one shot and then punched out again and fired another shot," investigators wrote in the synopsis.

Brackett said he put the car in park. He said he heard Hall's wife yelling from behind, calling him a "murderer" and accusing him of shooting an unarmed man.

Brackett told investigators he "waited for backup to arrive before he could focus his attention on medical treatment for Hall because he was in fear and wanted the scene to be secure."

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Hall died in the parking lot. His wife could not be reached Monday.

Brackett, a trooper for nearly four years, retired from the state police in May.

"I just wasn't able to go back to work," he told The Baltimore Sun on Monday. "I have death threats come to me and my family. … It's just tough, and you combine everything that's happened to me, it's not like you can sleep at night. It's not like you don't have nightmares."

Brackett said he served six years in the Army and was deployed to Iraq in 2011. He said the shooting last year worsened his post-traumatic stress disorder.

"There's been a lot of speculation about what I should have done," Brackett said. "I was fighting with him for over a minute, trying to pull him out of the car, and then he launches the car and tries to slam me."

Brackett said he had no other option.

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"If I had a Taser, I would have used it," he said. "It probably would have kept him alive."

After a shooting, state police policy requires a trooper to "render aid within his level of training."

In a review of the incident, state police Sgt. David Sexton watched security and dashboard camera footage from Brackett's vehicle and wrote that the trooper "does not appear to provide any medical or life saving techniques at the time and it is several minutes before an off duty deputy who is an EMT arrives and assists the troopers."

Sexton noted that Brackett can be seen "going back to Hall, who is in distress and incapacitated, and he seems to be talking to him and using his radio."

An internal affairs investigation was conducted to determine if Brackett followed police rules and policies. The findings of that investigation are confidential under state law.

"There's a hundred-plus people in the parking lot screaming at me," Brackett told The Sun. "By the time it took me to secure everything and clear my weapon and move on to render aid, he had no pulse."

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Medical examiners found Hall had heroin and cocaine in his system.

Trostle, the deputy state's attorney, said Brackett knew of the open warrant against Hall and was therefore justified in attempting to arrest him.

Trostle said the finding was based in part on a review of the dashboard camera video, the toxicology report and the fact that Hall's DNA was found on Brackett's gun.

"The car lunged forward approximately 6 feet, throwing Trooper Brackett off balance, and creating a clear danger to both Trooper Brackett and citizens walking in the parking lot," Trostle wrote "It is clear that Trooper Brackett reasonably feared for his own safety, and/or the safety of citizens who were in the parking lot."

tprudente@baltsun.com


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