Virginia State Police say they won’t release Xzavier dash cam footage until the investigation is over.
GOOCHLAND- Before he was killed by Virginia State Police, 18-year-old Xzavier Hill was a lifeguard. He played on his high school football team. He even helped his mother with a cleaning business that she owned. A recent high school graduate, his life was cut short on Jan. 10. Two Virginia State police officers shot and killed the teenager during a traffic stop at 4:35 a.m.
Police say they shot Hill after he pulled out a gun. However, his mother says the dash cam footage shows a very different story.
LaToya Benton, alongside several other members of the family, viewed the tape of Hill’s last moments a few days after his death. In that tape, they say that Hill wasn’t holding a gun when the officers shot him.
“My son is not a thug. He is not a criminal. This has to stop,” said Benton, her voice shaking. “I want justice for my son. Please, I’m begging y’all. I want y’all to see what I saw.”
On Jan. 16, Benton and her family held a press conference at the Goochland County Prosecutor’s Office, demanding the release of the footage of her only son’s death.
“I know I’m not wrong. I know what I saw,” said Benton. “My family knows what they saw. They killed my son.”
Did Xzavier Have a Gun?
The biggest inconsistency in the two stories was whether or not Hill had a gun. The police allege that Hill refused to listen to their demands and eventually pulled out a gun. This, according to them, is why officers shot him.
However, according to his family, Hill didn’t even own a gun, much less have one in the vehicle. And according to Benton, her son did not have a gun in his hands when he was shot.
Benton says Hill was left-handed. If he were to shoot a gun, he would most likely do so with his left hand. However, according to Benton, they saw his left hand in the video and say it was empty.
“In the video, we see Xzavier’s left hand,” said Benton through her tears. “The officer goes to open Xzavier’s door and Xzavier says ‘my door is open’.They didn’t give him a chance to get out the car.”
At the time of the shooting, Xzavier was sitting in the car, said his mother. Judging by the positioning of his body in the video, Benton says it would’ve been next to impossible for her son to have reached for a gun at that time. He would’ve needed extra arms in order to reach a gun to the left of him.
“My son is not an octopus,” said Benton. “He has only two arms just like you and me.”
Right now, both officers involved in the shooting are on administrative leave pending an investigation. The VSP has not released their identities, not even to Hill’s family.
“I could be standing next to these men in a grocery store and I’d never know,” said Benton.
Can a High Speed Chase Only Last Four Minutes?
According to a release from the VSP, the teen was going 98 mpg in a 65 mph zone on 1-64 when an officer flashed his lights and siren. Instead of stopping, Hill allegedly sped up to 120 mph and led the officers on a chase. However, the car eventually got stuck on a median, where officers demanded that Hill exit the vehicle and show his hands.
But, according to what Benton saw on the tape, there was no high speed chase. The incident only lasted about four minutes, Benton says.
“You don’t have a high speed chase in three to four minutes,” said Benton.
The chase allegedly began in Henrico County and ended in Goochland County. According to his family, he was on his way home to his girlfriend after visiting Richmond.
Right now, the family has hired an attorney to help them get justice for their loved one. Benton is also calling for Virginia to crack down and hold police accountable.
“Virginia needs to change their laws,” said Benton. “They need to change their laws. Period. From a moral standpoint.”
Last year, the state had a huge wave of police and criminal justice reform. But, Virginia still has a long way to go. For example, there is currently no law requiring that VSP outfit their officers with body cameras.
There’s also no law that requires the Virginia State Police release the footage. Virginia is one of 17 states that doesn’t require its state law enforcement to release footage captured by police.
So far, no potential witnesses have come forward about the shooting. And the VSP doesn’t require that their officers wear body cameras. So the only definitive way to prove what happened in Goochland that Saturday morning is to view the dash cam footage.
Where is the Footage of Xzavier’s Death?
Right now, because of the investigation, Virginia State Police are holding on to the footage. VSP spokesperson, Corrine Geller, says that they’ll release it after the pending investigation concludes. Dogwood staff have not reviewed the footage, but Xzavier Hill’s family is demanding that they release it to the public.
“The investigation remains ongoing and the state police has no additional information to release at this time,” said Geller. “Once the investigation is complete, state police will turn its criminal investigative findings over to the Commonwealth’s Attorney for final review and adjudication. “
While the officers are on leave, the VSP is currently doing an internal investigation on the shooting. But, the act of “internal investigations” has been under scrutiny for quite some time in the commonwealth. Whether or not police should be able to police themselves has been questioned by several police reform advocates in the past and present.
In the meantime, the family also put together a petition, urging for the VSP to release the footage of Xzavier’s death. They also created a hashtag, called #JusticeforXzavier in order to spread awareness of Hill’s death.
“Each year this happens,” said Benton. “We have these shirts on saying Black Lives Matter. I’m sick of seeing these shirts. We’re tired of wearing these shirts. I have nephews who I’m scared for. I want them charged and I want them to go to jail. Period. That’s justice for me. But even if they’re in jail, I can’t see my son. “
Arianna Coghill is a content producer with the Dogwood. You can reach her firstname.lastname@example.org