Bereaved parents of a teen slain by a cop in his own driveway, and left to die without medical attention face down in a ditch have filed a Federal civil rights lawsuit against West Virginia State Trooper B.D. Gillespie and his agency.
Timothy Hill was a recent high school graduate, much shorter than burly West Virginia State Trooper Gillespie, and smaller in size too, when he pulled a prank on a neighbor, it led to his early demise.
Trooper Gillespie was questioning the teen and his friends about wet underwear found on his patrol car.
The original report states that the two other boys left, and Timothy Hill, just weeks after his 18th birthday was left alone with the larger and older State Trooper neighbors characterized as a “bully.”
The cop and victim were neighbors, and the officer was the victim of the prank.
West Virginia Trooper Gillespie ended the investigation by firing two mortal rounds from his service firearm, and he didn’t render aid to the victim afterwards, but rather returned to his vehicle to get more weapons, fearing vigilante justice by Hill’s family – which never materialized – for the act of violence he’d just committed, when the found out the immediate facts.
Timothy Hill was unarmed.
And Hill’s family certainly would’ve been close by, since the entire incident happened in the driveway at his parents home, and were worried that the Trooper – who’d use his radar gun on his front porch, and complained about Timothy’s use of ATVs and motor bikes were too loud – would wait until shortly after their son turned 18 and seek to arrest him or beat him up under color of law.
They never thought the Trooper would kill their son.
A nearby samaritan claimed that Timothy Hill was on top of the Trooper, and that by jumping into the fray he’d, “saved the officer’s life” that late spring night in Charleston.
It’s unknown why the teen wasn’t cuffed by the officer if he was in fact was placed under arrest in the presence of two young men.
The Hill family was terrified of retaliation for filing a formal complaint with the West Virginia State Police about Gillespie, but did speak with another officer – which likely sealed the fate of their son.
The family’s lawsuit notes that the Trooper has an extensive history using force in the line of duty with 8 priors, and that the West Virginia State Police do an inadequate job investigating when their officers take lives under color of law.
As the Charlestown Gazette’s thorough article about Timothy Hill notes:
The Hills allege that the State Police does not properly investigate killings involving its officers. The investigation of Gillespie, as is usually the case, was led by fellow troopers.
Hill’s parents, Michelle and Robert Hill Jr., claim the shooting was malicious and done with reckless disregard of their son’s rights.
The shooting was “atrocious, intolerable and so extreme and outrageous as to exceed the bounds of decency and morality,” attorneys wrote in the complaint filed Tuesday in Kanawha Circuit Court. Charleston attorneys Robert Berthold Jr., Michael Olivio and Stephanie Mullett filed the lawsuit on behalf of the Hills.
The lawsuit alleges wrongful death, civil rights violations and unlawful arrest.
“It’s difficult to imagine any circumstances where an unarmed teenager, who had not committed a crime, would be shot by a police officer not once but twice, resulting in his death,” Berthold said.
The Hills also allege that the State Police doesn’t properly screen potential troopers, or properly train and monitor troopers.
Prior to Hill’s death, Gillespie had used force eight times in his three years with the State Police, including twice shooting and killing dogs that were allegedly acting aggressively.
Unsurprisingly, West Virginia State Police already completed their investigation clearing their own officer Trooper Gillespie.
The appearance of impropriety is impossible to shake from an internal investigation into the incident which took the life of a young and unarmed victim like Timothy Hill.
America’s entire system of “mixed government” which may conspire to create up to five levels of government for any piece of real estate is designed to create higher levels of officials to investigate lower level officials’ actions.
Sadly, for Police Chiefs and Commissioners, the pain of going to a higher government agency for an impartial decision is left to the agency heads, rather than mandatory referral of cases.
As political pressure builds, some police agencies are doing the right thing.
Florida’s local police agencies are increasingly looking up the chain of command to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) – which is a separate and distinct agency from the Florida Highway Patrol – for a more impartial investigation of police shootings.
This still doesn’t always work out so well, such as in Key West where the local Key West Police Department Captain supervising an agency who killed a tourist has was formerly married to the FDLE investigator who cleared his officers in the shooting of Charles John Eimers on Thanksgiving weekend in 2013.
That FDLE officer was later removed from office over mortgage fraud charges.
However exception filled Florida’s results may be, the resulting 31% increase in caseload and 117% increase over 5 years is keeping Florida’s top law enforcement agency very busy, creating a meaningful paper trail for families to follow and portends a national trend where agencies cease “self-investigations.”
Don’t police know what a teen might say behind their back about police conducting “self-investigations”???
The business of state level investigations of police homicides is booming, forcing the FDLE to request millions of dollars in budget increases to hire officers – money which would’ve been paid by families to private investigators when agencies self-investigate.
So why didn’t West Virginia’s State Police turn to another state level agency to independently investigate this egregious police shooting of an unarmed teen at his own home?
There is none in West Virginia.
And they didn’t ask the FBI.
The West Virginia State Police also train every police officer in the state too.