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Verdicts

Law Practice in Jacksonville

SELECTED 2013-2017

Estate of Gregory Hill versus the Sheriff of St. Lucie County and Deputy Newman

UPDATE: The Hill v. St Lucie Order is attached, where Defendants’ Motions for Summary Judgment were denied in substantial part, clearing the way for a jury trial in June of 2017 for Gregory Hill, who was shot and killed through his garage door in 2014.

General Facts:

Gregory Hill’s home (1501 Avenue Q, Fort Pierce, Florida) sits across from the parking lot of Francis K. Sweet Elementary School, where two of his daughters attended school. He was in his home listening to music, waiting to pick up one of his daughters from school. He didn’t make it. Mr. Hill was shot and killed in his home by St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Deputy Christopher Newman on January 14, 2014, at approximately 3:15 – 3:20 PM. The incident was seen by many teachers and parents, as they lined up to along the street and in the parking lot to pick up their children between 2:45 and 3:15 when school let out. Even Mr. Hill’s daughter saw the events.

Between 2:45 PM and 3:20 PM, Mr. Hill was listening to a mix CD in his garage. According to arriving parent Stephanie Ann Mills, Decedent Gregory Hill was listening to a Drake song at his residence with his garage door open. Like you all don’t know, but Drake is a Canadian rapper, singer and songwriter, who initially gained recognition as an actor on the teen drama television series Degrassi: The Next Generation in the early 2000s. At the time of the subject incident, Drake had recently received Grammy Award for Best Rap Album.

The music made Ms. Mills mad and nervous because the music was loud and contained the expletive identified as the “f-word,” as she picked up her child even though she “honestly like(s) the song when there are no children around, and it’s a good song.” Mills called 911 and reported what she called a “disturbance.” Police came within 10-15 minutes after she called. Mr. Hill’s garage door was closed by the time Ms. Mills and her family were back to the car. People didn’t hear music at that point.

Juanita Wright was the principal of Frances K. Sweet School. She never heard loud music. She said, “If that’s why the police were called, because the music was loud… we didn’t hear any loud music.”  The school never felt threatened by anyone in the house. She’s never had problems with anyone in that house.  She said police should have waited and not started shooting while kids were around. Mr. Hills’ daughter, Destiny Hill, was sitting in a bench, “kindof close” to the street when the shooting happened. She heard officers say, “cut down the music,” but said she couldn’t really hear any music coming from the residence. The garage door then closed.

Not one single independent eyewitness saw Mr. Hill hold anything in his hand, much less a gun. Not one single independent eyewitness/earwitness heard any statements such as “Gun. Drop the Gun” or hear officers identify themselves as police.

Deputy Lopez followed Deputy Newman to the scene. Newman pulled up on the street “a little past the garage door on the east side of the garage door and I pull up right behind him, right where the garage door is.” Newman was “in front of the house.” Newman approached the western portion garage door and knocks on it. He continued to walk east along the garage door while occasionally knocking. Lopez stayed near the garage while Newman went to knock on the front door. The music appeared to be getting louder, and so Newman looked, and the garage door was opening. Officers say they saw a gun in Hill’s hand as the door rose. Newman said he first pulled his firearm when he saw the gun. Despite no one hearing him give any commands on scene (including Deputy Lopez), Newman said he yelled “gun” and drew his gun. He said he kept yelling for him to drop the gun. “The music was so loud, I was screaming at the top of my lungs, “gun, drop the gun,” he said. The garage door went down and 4 shots went through it.

Pursuant to the Medical Examiner’s Report, the cause of death to Mr. Hill was multiple gunshot wounds: (1) to the right side of the head (which perforated the cerebrum and caused extensive subarachnoid hemorrhage, as well as skull fractures), (2) to the right abdomen (which perforated the small bowel and lacerated a major artery) which exited his left buttock and (3) a gunshot wound to the right lower abdomen (which perforated his bladder and pelvic cavity).

A gun was located in Gregory Hill’s pocket. No one has been able to link that gun to Mr. Hill at any point. It had no identifiable DNA, fingerprints or trace of Mr. Hill. There was also no blood splatter found on the gun and there was no brain matter found on the gun. According to forensic analysis, Mr. Hill was incapable of putting a gun back into his pocket of his sagging pants once the bullet struck his brain. The bullets were fired within 1.5 seconds, also not giving him time to replace the gun.

According to parent Stephanie Ann Mills (who called 911), the garage door came up quick. She saw the police “get startled” and one fired his gun. The officer visibly “jumped back.” And, she felt that the officers clearly “were surprised by him.” She never heard the officers say anything “at any point.”  She never saw anyone on the other side of the garage door and thus never saw a gun.

This case is set for trial in June 2017.

Hill v. St Lucie Order on Defendants’ Motions for Summary Judgment