Charles Hill's family seeks justice in BART shooting

Examiner file photo
Charles Hill
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The family of the man fatally shot by BART officers last summer said it filed a federal civil lawsuit against the transit agency not for a settlement payout, but to ensure the criminal case against officers moves forward.

Charles Hill, a 45-year-old transient, was shot and killed July 3 at the Civic Center BART station, after police said he acted belligerently and threw a knife at responding officers.

However, Jan Hill said her brother-in-law, while drunk at the time, posed no threat and did not deserve to be killed.

“Within 60 seconds, the officers there shot and killed Chuck,” said Jan Hill, who is married to Chris Hill and had known Charles Hill for 22 years. “He never had a chance.”

The family’s civil suit, which was filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court in Oakland, said Hill threw a small, fold-out knife that missed Officer James Cromwell by “a large margin,” and when the BART cop opened fire on Hill, the immediate threat of harm had already passed.

Jan Hill said her brother-in-law was a free spirit who roamed the country, but was never a harm to anyone. She said the family last talked to him a few months before the incident.

John Burris, an Oakland-based lawyer who represented Oscar Grant III’s mother and daughter in a separate wrongful death case against BART, is the Hill family’s attorney. The suit did not specify a dollar amount, but it requested general damages, compensation for future wage loss, funeral and burial expenses, attorney fees and punitive damages. It specifically mentions Cromwell and Myron Lee, the two officers who fired shots at Hill, along with BART police Chief Kenton Rainey.

While representing the family of Grant, who was shot and killed by BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle on Jan. 1, 2009, Burris helped secure a $1.3 million settlement for the slain man’s mother and a $1.5 million settlement for his daughter.

Jan Hill said she had no expectations for the civil suit, other than to draw awareness to the killing. She said her main motivation was to see the officers responsible for Hill’s death behind bars.

“I want them in jail with all the other killers,” Jan Hill said.

A criminal investigation into the actions of the BART officers is ongoing. Dale Allen, attorney for BART, said there is no merit for the civil suit and the officers acted appropriately in the face of danger.

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

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