Lead Story West Edition

Widow of alleged witness to Ford shooting sues city

LOS ANGELES — The widow of a man who may have been a witness to the shooting of Ezell Ford and was subsequently shot and killed himself, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against city officials.

The suit was filed by attorneys representing Alice Hill on Dec. 28.

It maintains that her husband, Leroy Hill, 47, did not receive adequate police protection after he came forward as a witness to the killing of Ezell Ford, who was shot by Los Angeles Police Department officers in August 2014. The damages are unspecified.

Leroy Hill was killed about 11:50 p.m. March 13, seven months after Ford was killed, near 65th Street and Broadway.

Authorities said two men fired shots into the car Hill was driving. His wife and two other female passengers were unharmed, according to the suit. Police previously said the incident might have been gang-related.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson, president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable, said his organization participated in a press conference that was held at the scene of Hill’s death. The conference was called for by Hill’s relatives and took place about a week after the incident.

At the time, the roundtable called for a full probe by L.A. County District Attorney Jackie Lacey’s office into the circumstances of Hill’s murder.

“We wanted to determine who the suspects, if any, were and why Hill was killed,” Hutchinson said in an email response to questions. “This was important given the intense interest in and controversy surrounding the LAPD slaying of Ford and the fact that Hill claimed to be a witness with information that contradicted the official version of the killing.”

Hutchinson said he never received a response from the district attorney concerning an investigation.

Lacey is listed as one of the defendants in Hill’s lawsuit. Others included Mayor Eric Garcetti, Police Chief Charlie Beck, City Councilman Curren Price, Deputy Police Chief Earl Paysinger and LAPD Inspector General Alex Bustamente.

Leroy Hill was killed in the same neighborhood as Ford, a 25-year old man who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Ford was walking in his neighborhood in August 2014 when two officers with the LAPD anti-gang unit, Sharlton Wampler and Antonio Villegas, confronted him.

Wampler told investigators he only wanted to talk with Ford, who was acting nervous. But Ford ignored him and kept walking.

The officers claimed they had reason to detain Ford for suspicious activity, since the area is known for drug use and gangs. Wampler touched Ford on the shoulder and tried to handcuff him. Ford turned around and tackled him and the two fought.

Ford ended up on top of Wampler, holding the officer’s gun, Wampler said. Villegas shot Ford twice, and then Wampler drew his backup gun, reached over Ford’s back and shot the man again. No drugs were found on Ford.

At a November 2014 news conference, Garcetti, Lacey, Beck and the other defendants named in Hill’s lawsuit asked for witnesses to Ford’s killing to come forward with a promise that they would be provided with protection and so “should not fear for their safety,” according to the lawsuit

Leroy Hill, gave a videotaped statement to the Ford family attorneys in which he said the two officers “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.

Despite their assurances, none of the accused informed Leroy Hill of the protections available to him, Alice Hill claimed, and therefore, contributed to his death and the financial losses of his widow.

Alice Hill’s attorney, Terran Steinhart, did not respond to requests for comment.

Hill has suffered financial losses and the companionship of her husband, the suit states.