The lawyer for the family of a woman and toddler who fell to their deaths at San Diego’s Petco Park baseball stadium in Autumn has said the police ruled their deaths a “suicide” to absolve the city from responsibility.
Raquel Wilkins, 40, and her 2-year-old son, Denzel Browning Wilkins, fell to the ground from a third-floor balcony, and both died before the game on 25 September between the San Diego Padres and Atlanta Braves.
At the time, the police labelled their deaths as “suspicious”, but after their investigation, which involved “dozens of interviews, reviewing of available video footage, and collecting background information”, plus working with the San Diego County medical examiner, they concluded that the mother intentionally fell from the baseball stadium.
Dan Gilleon, the family’s lawyer, said the deaths were accidental and suggested it’s more “convenient” for the city if the mother is blamed. “The city owns Petco Park. It’s a defendant in the wrongful death case. Four months ago, the city’s mayor went to the press to blame Raquel Wilkins. Today, the city’s police echoed the mayor. But defendants do this. They blame the victim especially when she can’t defend herself,” he wrote on Twitter.
Mr Gillieon also suggested that the video evidence police were using wasn’t enough: “they don’t have video from up top to show why she was falling,” he said to The Daily Beast on Wednesday.
Shortly after the incident, and before a thorough investigation had taken place, San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria had suggested that mental health could be a factor in their deaths.
“Many people are suffering with depression, anxiety – either because that was the way that they’ve been for a while or because the pandemic has exacerbated it,” he said, before apologising for the comment at a later date.
The family’s lawyer has said this comment prejudiced the investigation. “If the mayor had not said what he said, and directed this thing in the way he directed it, and the police hadn’t gone down this rabbit hole to try to find evidence to prove him right, then it probably would’ve been classified as an accident,” said Gilleon. “They just went out looking for evidence that she committed suicide.”
Witnesses around the time of the incident told reporters that the mother was in good spirits before the incident. They described her laughing, then losing her balance and falling off of a bench near the railing.
“From my vantage point, looking at her back, it was almost like she rolled over the railing,” said the witness to The San Diego Union-Tribune.
Mr Gilleon is building a legal case to prove wrongful death, he will potentially use photos taken on the day of the incident, which show benches close to the railings at the ballpark.
The Independent has contacted San Diego Police for further comment.
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