LOS ANGELES (CNS) — The Los Angeles City Council has agreed to pay nearly $300,000 to settle a lawsuit stemming from the death of woman who police say hanged herself while in custody but became a focal point of the Black Lives Matter movement.
The council voted 13-0 to award $298,000 to the mother of Wakiesha Wilson, 36, who was pronounced dead at County-USC Medical Center on March 27, 2016, after she was found hanging in her jail cell at the Metropolitan Detention Center.
The Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners ruled in January that the actions of four LAPD officers did not contribute to Wilson’s death, and the District Attorney’s Office determined in July that there was insufficient evidence to prove that any officers were criminally liable.
Wilson’s death became a focus of the local Black Lives Matter movement, as they repeatedly chanted her name at police commission meetings while openly questioning whether she committed suicide.
Coroner’s Assistant Chief Ed Winter said an autopsy determined that Wilson’s death was a suicide by hanging, but Wilson’s family and the activists raised questions about her death, insisting she was not despondent and would not have taken her own life.
Wilson’s mother filed a $35 million claim against the city in September that sought answers about her daughter’s death.
According to LAPD Chief Charlie Beck’s report on Wilson’s death, she was arrested by Central Area patrol officers on March 26, 2016, after they were dispatched to a medical facility in the 1300 block of Hope Street to investigate a 911 call regarding a person assaulting a patient.
Wilson was determined to be the person who assaulted another patient, and was arrested and brought to the Central Station. A lieutenant reported Wilson did not appear to have any signs of mental illness and was “very coherent and forthright.”
After being taken to the Metropolitan Detention Center, Beck wrote that Wilson had been assessed by the Central Division watch commander, a detention center nurse and a physician assistant prior to being booked.
While being booked, Wilson told officers she was cold and requested a long-sleeve shirt, which she was given, Beck wrote.
Officers reported Wilson was “a little out of it,” and uncooperative at times while in custody, according to the chief’s report.
A witness — presumably Wilson’s cellmate or a nearby inmate — reported that Wilson called to officers on the intercom, saying, “I’m suicidal,” but LAPD officers on duty said Wilson did not make any suicidal statements, Beck wrote.
About 8:25 a.m. on March 27, detention center personnel conducted a safety check of Wilson’s cell and found she had hung herself with her garment, Beck wrote, and added that officers tried to revive Wilson with CPR but were unsuccessful.