Updated: Oct 13
Victoria Tillinghast | News Editor
More and more young minds are being asked to grapple with the concept of gun violence here on campus. Occurring this week, “Justice Four Xzavier Hill” was found written on the front of the Webb building.
According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, a Virginian grand jury unanimously found two Virginia State Police troopers justified in using deadly force in the Jan. 9, 2021 killing of 18-year-old Xzavier Hill.
The decision for deadly force came after, “Mr. Hill’s failure to comply with the commands of the troopers and then introduce a firearm into a rapidly evolving event.”
Hill was shot and killed by the police after originally being pulled over for speeding and evading in Goochland County. Police located a semiautomatic pistol in the front seat of Hill’s vehicle following the shooting. While the .40-caliber cartridge was jammed in the chamber, the firearm contained no magazine. The firearm was reported to have been stolen from the firearm owner’s vehicle to ODUPD. It is reported that the owner was known to Hill and on Jan. 8, Hill had been in the owner’s vehicle.
The dashcam video of the officer-involved shooting of Hill has been made available to the public, thanks to the insistence of Hill’s family.
The video can be watched here. This video contains sensitive content related to Xzavier Hill’s passing; viewer discretion is advised.
“I feel that Xzavier wasn’t given a chance,” says Hill’s Aunt, a Norfolk local who asked to be referred to as Auntie Advocate to help drive people to her advocacy social media pages and keep her personal business work separate. “When you watch the video, you see he says, ‘my door won’t open.’”
According to VPM, Hill’s mother, Latoya Benton, petitioned the Richmond City Circuit Court in June for the right to further question the officers involved in his death.
On Sept. 21, a Richmond Circuit Court judge ruled that Benton has two weeks to draft and propose questions to the court that Benton would like the officers involved to answer. Benton’s petition is part of a legal action to have her son’s death declared wrongful by the court by soliciting the testimony of the officers involved. According to the grand jury report released by the Goochland Commonwealth Attorney’s office, of the two officers, Officer Benjamin Boone’s post-incident statements only amounted to six sentences and Officer Seth Layton provided no statements.
“I cannot bring my son back,” Benton says, but what she and her sister hope to do is invoke student advocacy to bring on systematic changes.
Auntie and Benton will be in the Webb center on Oct. 13 at 6 p.m. to continue this mission.
“I want the kids to know—you know: be safe, be cautious.” Says Auntie on the importance of allowing ODU students the opportunity to meet the families involved in these types of incidents and how it provides new importance on police matters.
Benton aims to inspire students to rally together in community outreach, making calls to government officials and spreading awareness of Hill’s case.
To Auntie, student engagement is vital in order for the next generation to better understand the impact of officer-related shootings. She aims to offer her experience as a resource to help others feel safe. In addition, she aims to reach out to those aiming for the higher echelons of politics and instill in them the importance of speaking out on the issues in positions of power.
Benton asks that students who wish to be further involved to contact Attorney General Mark Herring’s office on behalf of Hill’s case either by phone: (804) 786-2071 or email: email@example.com
The Washington Post has formed a database cataloging every individual who has been shot by a police officer in the United States. In Virginia, 13 people have been killed by the police in 2021, including Xzavier Hill and Donovan Lynch.
UPDATE 10/13/21: The location of this event was changed due to inclement weather, and the article was edited to reflect this.