Local

Mother files lawsuit seeking answers to mystery of son’s death in police arrest

Diane Hill, center, holds a plaque given to her by co-workers of her son Donald “Donnie” Hill after his death. Attorneys Neil Gehlawat, left, and Thomas Seabaugh announced a pending lawsuit against Lemoore.
Diane Hill, center, holds a plaque given to her by co-workers of her son Donald “Donnie” Hill after his death. Attorneys Neil Gehlawat, left, and Thomas Seabaugh announced a pending lawsuit against Lemoore. lgriswold@fresnobee.com

The mother of Donald “Donnie” Hill, who died after Lemoore police put a spit hood on him and he reportedly vomited, filed a claim with the city Thursday for wrongful death in advance of filing a lawsuit.

The city has 45 days to respond before attorneys can file a lawsuit in Kings County Superior Court and federal court.

At a news conference next to City Hall, Hill’s mother, Diane Hill of Hanford, said the death of her son on New Year’s Eve has been devastating.

“There’s no words to say how much I miss him,” she said. “He was the sweetest son I could ever have.”

Attorney Neil Gehlawat of Bakersfield said there are many unanswered questions about Hill’s death.

He was the sweetest son I could ever have.

Donna Hill

“We suspect the conduct of the officers led to his heart to stop beating,” he said. The pending lawsuit will bring out more details, he said.

Hill, 30, lived in San Diego where he had a civilian job with the Navy. On Dec. 31, 2016, he was in Lemoore, where he graduated from high school, and was visiting a brother and friends at home, his attorney said.

According to the Kings County Sheriff’s Office, which is doing an investigation, Hill began having bizarre interactions with family and friends, an ambulance crew and the Lemoore Police Department.

“Many described Hill’s actions as possibly being under the influence of drugs or of psychotic outbursts,” a Sheriff’s Office news release said. “Donald would appear to regain some form of composure and request no interaction with mental health or other medical services.”

In the evening, family members of Hill called police to report that his behavior had become even more bizarre and that family members had to restrain him, the news release said.

Police handcuffed him and “placed a spit hood over his head to prevent him from further spitting incidents,” the news release said.

Donald would appear to regain some form of composure and request no interaction with mental health or other medical services.

Kings County Sheriff’s Office

He was placed onto the floor on his side and became unresponsive, the Sheriff’s Office said.

The lawyer for Diane Hill said her son had vomited.

American Ambulance performed lifesaving measures and took him to Adventist Medical Center. He was pronounced dead at 8:50 p.m.

The initial autopsy showed that Hill had minor scrapes and bruising but no visible injuries that would have led to his death, the Sheriff’s Office said. There were no obvious signs of health issues and toxicology tests revealed no drugs or other interactions.

The final autopsy report by a forensic pathologist, Dr. Gary Walter, was issued March 16 by the Kings County Coroner’s Office. Hill died of cardiac dysrhythmia with an unknown cause, and the manner of death was listed as undetermined, the news release said.

Detectives will finish the investigation and submit the information to the district attorney for review, the Sheriff’s Office said.

The city attorney for Lemoore was not available for comment by midafternoon Thursday.

Lewis Griswold: 559-441-6104, @fb_LewGriswold

  Comments