The mother of a 36-year-old woman who died in Los Angeles police custody on Easter Sunday has filed a $35 million claim against the city that seeks answers about her daughter’s death, her attorney said Tuesday.
Lisa Hines, the mother of Wakiesha Wilson, is alleging foul play and seeking $35 million in damages in the claim filed Monday as a precursor to a federal lawsuit. Hine’s attorney, Carl Douglas, said he expects the city will reject the claim during the 45-day review period.
City Attorney’s Office spokesman Rob Wilcox declined comment other than to say the complaint will be reviewed.
Hines and other family members, along with members of Black Lives Matter, have questioned police accounts that Wilson committed suicide in a jail cell on March 27.
Wilson, who was the mother of a 13-year-old boy and who had been diagnosed as bipolar, was arrested on suspicion of battery.
In the claim, Hines says her daughter sounded well when she called on March 26, the day before she died, to say she had been arrested and would need to be picked up after her court arraignment later that week.
During a second phone call about 7:30 the next morning, Wilson once again reminded her mother about the court date and said she would call back later in the day to talk to her aunt, Sheila Hines Brim, who was celebrating her birthday, according to the claim. Wilson was found unresponsive in her cell a couple hours later.
Hines drove to the downtown criminal courts building to meet her daughter on the requested date, but Wilson was nowhere to be found. She says she only learned of her daughter’s death the next day, after she was given a number to the coroner’s office.
Douglas said the family has “troubling questions” about Wilson’s death, and the claim was filed to get answers.
The family has been attending Police Commission meetings regularly to obtain information, but has gotten few details about what happened, he said.
“Because they do have these questions … because they refuse to accept the official version that Wakiesha Wilson took her own life, because they talked to her just hours before she supposedly took her own life,” the family resorted to legal means, Douglas said.
“There is an investigation ongoing, and there is some time that it takes for that to evolve,” he said. “Regrettably, the only way the family can get real answers is through a discovery process that is part of a lawsuit to be filed.”
What the family decides to do with what they learn will depend on whether the family is “satisfied that justice is in fact being served,” he said.
Wilson’s aunt was more forthright, saying “we know there was some type of foul play, and we just want to see justice.”
Her niece “wouldn’t have missed calling me to wish me happy birthday,” Brim said.
“No amount of money will ever replace her,” she added. “We would rather have her here with us, where she belongs.”
Brim later spoke even more plainly at the Police Commission meeting, which started not long after the family held a news conference. She said that she was very close to her niece and believes the official police account to be “cockamamie.”
Brim also pointed to what she said were conflicting accounts by detectives investigating Wilson’s death, indicating there may have been an altercation.
“You all can try to tear down her name — you already killed her,” Brim said. “But I’m not going to let you guys just keep saying suicide. And we know that didn’t happen. There’s too many holes in the story, there’s too many lies.”
Hines told reporters that she is seeking justice, but ultimately, “maybe there won’t be no justice, because I won’t have my baby back.”
“I miss my baby,” she said. “There is not a day that goes by that I don’t shed a tear.”
Hines said adding to her suffering was her experience trying to locate her daughter after she did not show up for her court hearing.
Jailers told her they did not know her daughter’s whereabouts, Hines said, and when a watch commander finally gave her a phone number, there was no forewarning that it would be to the coroner’s office, only that it would connect her with an investigator.
Black Lives Matter activists have rallied around Wilson’s family and pressed for more information about the circumstances surrounding her death during Police Commission meetings. They point to the department’s response to her death as one of the reasons police Chief Charlie Beck should be fired.
Hines said during a Black Lives Matter event last month that the police department unnecessarily delayed telling her of her daughter’s death, and that she had to make several phone calls to the LAPD before she was unceremoniously informed that her daughter had died days before.
“If this was your child, and you were looking for her, and somebody gave you a number to call … and when you do call the number, the coroner’s office answers, what would be going on in your body, mind and soul?” she said.
–City News Service