Pittsburgh police Officer Calvin Hall died doing what he was most passionate about — protecting and serving the people, the slain officer’s family said Wednesday night.
Hall died at UPMC Presbyterian hospital in the city’s Oakland neighborhood earlier in the day, three days after he was shot three times in the back while off-duty Sunday in the city’s Homewood neighborhood. He was 36.
Hall’s cousin, Dion Bowles, 37, said that he was at a bar around the corner when he heard that Hall had been shot while at a neighborhood block party.
Hall apparently was attempting to de-escalate an argument that had erupted between others whom he did not know, according to Bowles.
“He was trying to stop people from arguing and fighting. He’s still an officer of the law, that’s still his job. Even though he wasn’t working, he was working,” Bowles said while consoling a few dozen family members and friends outside the hospital’s main entrance.
Whether or not in uniform, “he’s still going to protect and serve. That’s what he do, that’s what he’s done,” Bowles said. “… He died for the cause and trying to protect somebody else that had nothing to do with us.”
Shortly after 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, several dozen police officers stood outside the hospital and saluted to clear the way for police motorcycles and patrol cars in a procession including the Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s Office van carrying Hall’s body for an autopsy.
“This is a very, very hard day for the Pittsburgh bureau of police,” Chief Scott Schubert told reporters outside the hospital hours after Hall died. “Our heart goes out to the family of Calvin Hall, it goes out to our officers and it goes out to the community, because we’re all suffering with what happened.”
Hall was with the department for two years and previously worked part-time for Braddock police.
Sgt. Joseph Lewis, who heads the Northview Heights Public Safety Center, previously told the Trib that Hall was recruited to work in Northview Heights because of his positive attitude and ability to relate to people from all walks of life.
“He was born and raised in the City of Pittsburgh and his ways of connecting to the community and to other officers were extremely beneficial for what we’re trying to do in Northview Heights,” Lewis said. “He is always positive, always upbeat. I approached him and said, ‘I want you up here because of your personality and the way you interact with the community.’ He’s always smiling, always positive.”
Schubert echoed those sentiments.
“In his time here, he left an indelible mark on his brother and sister officers, as well as the community he served,” Schubert said. “He was known for his quick smile, ever-optimistic attitude and for his career-long focus on community policing. He was a model officer. He made it a priority to connect with residents, and succeeded in doing so.”
Police are investigating Hall’s death as a homicide. There was a party or parties going on in the 7300 block of Monticello Street, police have said. People were in homes and on the street. An argument started and then Hall was shot, police have said.
Schubert said that “based on gathered evidence” it appeared that Hall, though off-duty when he was shot, “was, in fact, acting under the color of the law.”
“We all want answers,” Schubert said. “However, this is an ongoing investigation. As in all cases, we must maintain the integrity of the investigation.”
In a statement, state Rep. Ed Gainey, D-24th District, Pittsburgh, said that early indications are that Hall may have been shot while trying to break up a fight.
“I pray for his family and friends, and hope they find strength in his memory and deeds,” Gainey said.
Mayor Bill Peduto, who is in Washington, D.C., testifying before Congress, ordered flags to be flown at half-staff in honor of Hall.
Although a relative newcomer to Pittsburgh’s department, Hall was well-respected on the force, said Patrick L. Knepp, vice president of Fraternal Order of Police Fort Pitt Lodge No. 2, the city’s police union. Knepp described Hall as a “dedicated, professional, and congenial person dedicated to assisting the citizens of Pittsburgh.”
“He was committed to his family and could be relied upon both personally and professionally because he went above and beyond to assist others,” Knepp said.
The police union will assist Hall’s family “in any way possible,” Knepp said, and will be working with the city to make arrangements for services for Hall.
Bowles described his cousin as “outgoing, rambunctious, a spark full of life” who was known for being a provider and a protector. He was a stellar role model “not just for family but for everybody out there,” Bowles said.
“He was well-rounded, good morals, respectful, good manners, chivalry, all of that,” he said. “He was that guy.”
Bowles said Hall was engaged to be married.
“He’s in a better place now,” Bowles said, then shook his head. “I can’t say that neither, because we need him here, and he’s not here right now. Somebody took him away from us.”