RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The mother of Xzavier Hill, a man who was shot by Virginia State Police after a car chase on I-64, can sue the officers who killed him for wrongful death, a federal court judge ruled.

Latoya Benton initially sought to bring six counts against VSP and the individual troopers, Seth Layton and Benjamin Bone, in both their individual and official capacities, including wrongful death, gross negligence and failure to properly train the officers.

Judge Henry Hudson, in his Sept. 15 opinion, found that VSP itself was protected by sovereign immunity from any civil suit under the 11th amendment, as were the troopers in their official capacity.

However, the judge allowed the case to proceed regarding five of the six counts against the officers in their individual capacities. For this case, that will simply mean that if damages are awarded, the officers alone will be responsible, not the state itself.

The Judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State.

11th Amendment to the U.S. constitution

In her initial filing, Benton sought $60,000,000 in damages against VSP, Bone and Layton, as well as $700,000 in punitive damages against the officers.

January 9, 2021

Xzavier Hill, 18, was traveling at 98 mph on I-64 in Goochland County when State Police, waiting in a speed trap, pulled out behind him at 4:35 a.m.

Police did not initially flash their lights, but when they did, Hill sped up, then attempted to make a u-turn through the interstate median. His car became stuck in the embankment, and as two state troopers approached his car, they demanded that he exit the vehicle.

As Hill told them his door was open, troopers claimed they saw him reaching for a gun. Both began to fire at Hill, ultimately striking him three times and killing him immediately.

Xzavier Hill was 18. Although a gun was later discovered in the car, it was unloaded.

Just days after the shooting, Latoya Benton was allowed by State Police to view dashcam footage from a patrol car that showed Hill’s death.

“My baby is in a box. Virginia State Police murdered my son,” Benton told 8News. “I know what I saw, I know what I saw.”

Benton said her son appeared to be opening the car door, in compliance with the officers’ orders, when he was shot.

“They get out of the car with their guns drawn; they say get out of the car, show me your hands,” she said. “I’m thinking you just told the boy to get out of the car and show him your hands. Xzavier says in the video, loud and clear ‘OK, my door is open’. The officer goes and reaches for his door and as he’s going like this (Benton slightly moves) they shoot him three times.”

8News filed a FOIA request for the dashcam footage in January 2021, but the request was denied by State Police, who cited an ongoing investigation. They also declined to comment on the case.

The footage was ultimately released a short time later, and it shows that Hill complied with orders to put his hands out the car window, though the quality of the video makes it difficult to tell whether he subsequently moved to pick something up in the car. It also shows that both officers fired at Hill from point blank range.

You can view dashcam footage here, but be advised, the video may be difficult to watch.

In the two years since Hill was killed, Benton has sought not only to hold the officers responsible, but also to see broader criminal justice reform. Along with the NAACP, she called on state police to change the way they train officers and increase transparency in their internal investigations.

A grand jury ultimately cleared Bone and Layton of criminal wrongdoing, but the civil case may now determine whether they can be held liable for Hill’s untimely death.