Family members of a Lynwood woman stabbed to death in the parking lot of a Gardena church by her ex-boyfriend in 2018 are suing the house of worship, alleging the bishop and others knew of the man’s propensity for violence and did not do enough to protect the victim.
The Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit names as defendants the 4,500-member City of Refuge church; Bishop and CEO Noel Smith; the church’s head of security, Bryant Smith; and Kevin Darnell Dickson, the 66-year-old killer of 50-year-old Patricia Ann Harrison.
The plaintiffs are Harrison’s adult children, Tontanisha English, Ashley Harrison and Eliseia Viverette, and her grandaughter, who was 6 years old when she witnessed her grandmother’s stabbing, according to the lawsuit.
The girl, who is English’s daughter, testified at Dickson’s preliminary hearing that the defendant stabbed her grandmother “all over her body,” according to the suit.
The plaintiffs are seeking unspecified damages on allegations of wrongful death, negligence, negligent hiring, supervision and retention, as well as both intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress.
“This tragic, violent incident was preventable,” according to an oft-repeated passage in the suit filed Thursday.
A representative for the church did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
Dickson, of Lynwood, pleaded guilty last May to charges related to the stabbing and was sentenced the same day to 26 years to life in prison.
Harrison was granted a temporary restraining order against Dickson about six months before she was stabbed more than 20 times outside the church after attending a Bible study session, according to the District Attorney’s Office. She died at a hospital the next morning.
The suit says Dickson used his silver Jaguar to block in Harrison’s car, then argued with her and for several minutes before stabbing her in the neck with a sharp knife-life object about 7 p.m. on April 18, 2018.
After witnessing the attack from Harrison’s car, her granddaughter ran inside the church and told Smith, who was regularly armed, what had happened, but Dickson was driving away by the time the security guard reached the parking lot, according to the suit.
When Smith reached Harrison, she had multiple stab wounds to the right side of her neck and was gasping for air, profusely bleeding and unable to speak, the suit says.
Church members were already giving Harrison aid by applying pressure to her neck, and yhey also called 911, according to the complaint.
Jones and Smith knew Dickson and Harrison and had “intimate knowledge of their relationship and of Dickson’s abusive, harassing and threatening conduct towards Patricia prior to the incident,” the suit alleges.
Dickson was a friend of Smith and had often told him about problems he and Harrison were having, the complaint says.
Despite knowing that Dickson posed a potential danger to Harrison, Jones, Smith and the church security team “admittedly did nothing to try to keep them apart, nor did they take any reasonable actions to prevent Dickson from harming Harrison at the church,” the suit alleges.
Dickson was arrested in Pflugerville, Texas, on April 21, 2018, following an hours-long standoff in which a special weapons team eventually made entry into a home, which was believed to belong to his ex-wife, who was not home at the time. He was subsequently returned to Los Angeles County.
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