SANTA MONICA, Calif. -- The parents of a New Jersey man shot to death in 1979 by two Beverly Hills police officers who believed he was a burglar have won an $810,000 civil suit judgment against the city.
A Superior Court jury agreed 9-3 Tuesday with the parents' contention that the Beverly Hills police were inadequately trained and used excessive force in the shooting death of Wilbert Williams Jr., 21.
Williams, who had a history of mental illness, was jaywalking at 4 a.m. May 18, 1979, when he was stopped by plainclothes officers B.W. Moody and Michael Hopkins who said they thought he matched the description of a burglar-rapist known as the 'spiderman burglar.'
Williams refused to identify himself, the officers said, and went 'berserk' when they tried to search him.
The officers radioed for assistance and four uniformed officers responded.
During a five-minute scuffle, the officers tried to subdue Williams by hitting him with their batons and flashlights. Two officers were knocked to the ground and one dropped his baton.
When Williams allegedly grabbed the baton and approached an officer, Moody and Hopkins fired six rounds from their revolvers, hitting Williams four times and killing him.
The Los Angeles County district attorney's special investigative unit later ruled the shooting was a justifiable homicide.
The suit by Wilbert and Verlie Williams of Trenton, N.J., said police had no right to stop their son who was never linked to a burglary, was not committing a crime and did not have a weapon.