Mayor Eric Garcetti, police Chief Charlie Beck and other top local officials were sued Monday by the family of a man who said he had witnessed the officer-involved shooting of Ezell Ford and who subsequently was fatally shot in his car in South Los Angeles.
Alice Hill, the widow of Leroy Hill, filed the wrongful death lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court. She also named as defendants District Attorney Jackie Lacey, City Councilman Curren Price, deputy police chief Earl Paysinger, LAPD Inspector General Alexander Bustamante and the city.
Hill alleges her husband should have been provided police protection after he came forward as a witness to the Ford shooting. The suit seeks unspecified damages.
A representative for the City Attorney’s Office did not immediately reply to a call for comment.
Leroy Hill, 47, was killed about 11:50 p.m. March 13 near 65th Street and Broadway.
Authorities said two men fired into the car he was driving. His wife and two other female passengers in the vehicle were not hurt, the suit stated. Police previously said the killing may have been gang-related.
Leroy Hill was killed in the same neighborhood where Ezell Ford, a 25- year-old mentally ill man, was killed by LAPD officers in August 2014, the suit states. Ford, 25, was shot when LAPD Officers Sharlton Wampler and Antonio Villegas confronted Ford, who police said was making suspicious movements before the shooting occurred.
According to Hill’s lawsuit, her husband, Garcetti, Lacey, Beck and the other individual defendants named in her complaint appeared at a news conference in November 2014 and appealed for witnesses to Ford’s killing to come forward with promises those who did so “should not fear for their safety” because they would be given protection, the suit states.
In the meantime, Ford’s parents filed a federal civil rights lawsuit in connection with his death, the suit states.
Leroy Hill, who saw the Ford shooting, gave a videotaped statement to the Ford family attorneys that Wampler and Villegas “wrongfully shot and killed Ezell Ford without legal or factual justification,” the suit states.
The Ford family lawyers shared the information with attorneys for the city, according to the Hill lawsuit. According to the complaint, lawyers for the city had an obligation to advise Leroy Hill of “all options to provide for the protection of his safety” and to provide whatever request he had in that regard.
In the alternative, to avoid a conflict of interest the city should have asked for another governmental entity, such as Los Angeles County, the state or the federal government, to protect Leroy Hill, the suit states.
None of the defendants in the Hill lawsuit contacted Leroy Hill to advise him of protections available to him, the suit states.
As a result, Leroy Hill “remained completely unprotected after coming forward to share his … eyewitness knowledge of the Ford killing,” the suit states.
Alice Hill has suffered financial losses and the companionship of her husband, the suit states.
— City News Service