Family files wrongful death claim against city of Lemoore after man dies in police custody

LEMOORE, Calif. (KFSN) -- Diane Hill, mother of 30-year-old Donald Hill, spoke through tears while remembering her son. He died in December while in Lemoore Police custody.

Hill held a plaque filled with kind words from his coworkers at a naval base in San Diego.

"He left a lasting impression on all who he came into contact with."

Hill stood beside her attorneys during a press conference Thursday, announcing they have filed a claim against the city for wrongful death.

"We think the conduct of the officers is what led up to and caused Mr. Hills death," said Neil Gehlawat, attorney.

The Kings County Sheriff's Office said Donald's family called the Lemoore Police Department the night he died-- saying he was acting bizarre throughout the day. Family members allegedly had to restrain him themselves until police showed up.

Sheriff's deputies said Donald was spitting on them-- so they placed the spit hood on him and placed him on his side when he became unresponsive.

But attorneys for Hill's family said they believe Donald vomited inside the mask and potentially choked on his vomit.

"If there's one thing the Hill family would like everyone to know, is that Donnie was somebody they loved and cared about very much. To them he was not just a statistic," said Thomas Seabaugh, attorney.

A final autopsy report states Hill died of cardiac dysrhythmia and the manner of death was listed as unknown. The report also showed he had minor scrapes and bruising but had no visible injuries that would have led to his death.

The city has 45 days to decide if they are rejecting the claim which will allow the family to move forward with a lawsuit.
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