Judge rules Xzavier Hill’s family can question Virginia State Police officers ahead of civil lawsuit

Virginia News

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A judge has granted, in part, a request by LaToya Benton, the mother of Xzavier Hill, to have officers answer questions surrounding his death in anticipation of a wrongful death lawsuit.

Xzavier Hill was shot by state police on Jan. 9, 2021, following a car chase in Goochland County. Earlier this year, a grand jury declined to indict either officer involved in the shooting, clearing them of criminal wrongdoing.

Now, Hill’s mother is seeking a civil suit against Seth Layton and Benjamin Bone, the troopers involved in the shooting. That case would face a lower burden of proof than criminal charges.

However, that lawsuit has not yet been filed. Instead, Benton is seeking testimony that would help her develop a case for civil liability.

Testimony would come from both the Virginia State Police officers who pursued Hill that day and from the officers tasked with investigating the incident as part of an internal review by the agency.

Benton submitted to the court a list of 59 questions spanning the officers, training procedures for troopers, and their recollections of the events on Jan. 9.

Benton’s attorney, Jacqueline Kramer, asserts in the petition that she is unable to bring forward a wrongful death lawsuit with the current information she has, claiming the grand jury report and details she’s received about the case through FOIA requests “provide contradictory facts and inconsistent statements by Trooper Bone and Trooper Layton.”

The series of questions submitted by Benton, the petition states, would help clarify facts surrounding Hill’s death. 

Attorneys representing the officers opposed the motion, arguing that Benton hadn’t exhausted other remedies, including FOIA requests for the results of the initial investigation.

An earlier request made by Benton was rejected by Virginia State Police in March. Attorneys, who are not affiliated with State Police, argued in a court filing in September that a change in state law that went into effect on July 1 could make those records available now.

In a hearing on Nov. 16, Judge Eugene Cheek Sr. granted the majority of Benton’s request, allowing her to submit 39 of her 59 questions to the officers. They’ll be required to file a written response.

Cheek excluded the questions Benton submitted about the troopers’ background and training, and specific ones regarding their encounter with Hill. For example, Cheek did not allow a question about where the troopers were when they first encountered, whether they were wearing body-cameras and if they requested back up.

Authorities claimed Hill, 18, led the troopers on a high-speed chase on Jan. 9 before eventually ending up in a ditch along Interstate-64 in Goochland County. Police said Hill refused to comply with commands to get out of the vehicle and claimed he was reaching for a gun before troopers fired, a claim Hill’s family has questioned.

Benton will get answers about the shooting, specifically whether the troopers saw Hill holding a gun before opening fire, how many shots they fired and how far they were from Hill when they did.

WATCH: Dashcam footage of the fatal shooting of Xzavier D. Hill by Virginia State Police Troopers. Viewer discretion is advised.

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