Editor’s note: This story has been updated with comments from the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office.
An Indianapolis security guard who shot and killed a woman in her car has been found not guilty of murder.
Melvin E. Hall was acquitted by a jury Tuesday after a two-day trial. Hall was charged with murder in September 2020 following the August shooting death of Naytasia Williams.
According to a recent opinion in the case from the Indiana Court of Appeals, Hall was working as a security guard at an apartment complex when Williams pulled into the parking lot and began “having words” with two other women. The incident occurred at the Towne and Terrace Apartments, according to The Indianapolis Star.
The women were threatening to kill each other, according to the COA, and Williams had a gun in her car. However, the general consensus was that the women were “blowing off steam,” and none of the security guards, including Hall, initially intervened.
“Ms. Williams stated she had no bullets in her gun because she had ‘emptied a clip on her cousin,’” Marc Lopez, Hall’s attorney, said in a news release. “However, her gun was actually loaded with one round in the chamber and four in the magazine. In addition, an empty clip was found on the driver side floorboard of Ms. William’s vehicle.
“The evidence proved that when Ms. Williams got into her car, she began moving her gun around inside the vehicle while continuing to express a desire to shoot ‘everyone,’” according to the news release.
Hall approached Williams’ vehicle with a flashlight and, according to the Court of Appeals, saw Williams move the weapon “out of her way.” Lopez said his client saw the gun moving “towards him” and that he “responded in self-defense for the safety of himself and others.”
“Mr. Hall’s back was against a guardrail with no ability to retreat or escape and within four feet of Ms. Williams’ front passenger window,” which was rolled down, according to the news release.
Hall filed a notice of self-defense on Sept. 15. “A jury of Mr. Hall’s peers listened to the evidence and found that Mr. Hall’s use of self-defense and defense of others was proper under the circumstances,” Lopez said.
A spokesman for the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office issued a statement to IL after the verdict, saying, “Deputy prosecutors, victim advocates, and investigators worked diligently to bring a challenging case before a jury. Our focus is now to provide Naytasia’s family with the support they need during this extremely difficult time.”
In the news release, Hall’s counsel noted that in January 2018, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department “had acknowledged that (Williams) was violent and suicidal and that her family wanted her to get professional help.”
“IMPD seized a handgun from Ms. Williams in January 2018. Four months later, an IMPD sergeant filed to have Ms. Williams declared a ‘dangerous’ person under Indiana’s ‘red flag law’ and requested a court order to keep her from retrieving her seized firearm. It is not known whether the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office moved forward with the sergeant’s request,” the news release said.
According to the prosecutor’s office, a red flag petition was filed in 2018 “based on an episode in which Ms. Williams was believed to be suicidal. The case was pending while the State and the Court had an opportunity to review additional information and it was ultimately resolved in February 2020.”
Indiana’s red flag law – and its use – has come under scrutiny in recent weeks after the April 15 shooting at the FedEx Ground facility in Indianapolis that left eight people dead, as well as the shooter, Brandon Scott Hole.
Law enforcement had removed a weapon from Hole about a year before the shooting, but Mears’ said his office did not pursue a red flag petition due to a “loophole” in the law that could have allowed Hole to get his weapon back.
Hole later legally purchased two assault-style rifles that he used in the April 15 mass shooting. The Indianapolis Fraternal Order of Police has criticized Mears for not filing a petition under the red flag law in Hole’s case.