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Family Of Woman Who Suspiciously Died In LAPD Custody Prepares To Sue

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Wakiesha Wilson, 36, died at a hospital after police say she hanged herself in her jail cell at the LAPD's Metropolitan Detention Center on the morning of March 27. Wilson's family—who does not believe the LAPD's version of events—is suing for damages in the amount of $35 million, according to a release. The family will appear on Tuesday, September 20 at 9 a.m. in front of the jail where Wilson died for a press conference. They will be joined by their attorney, Carl Douglas. Wilson's family has stated they don't believe she would kill herself and that some things just aren't adding up. On the same day that Wilson died, Wilson spoke to her mother, Lisa Hines, at about 7:30 a.m. over the phone. Wilson told her mother that she would see her family again at her next court appearance, which would have been on March 29. She also said she would call them again that night. Wilson's family never received that phone call, and was confused when she did not attend her court hearing on Tuesday. Hines would not find out that her daughter had died until Wednesday, but it wasn't the LAPD who told her. Hines says she had to ask about her daughter numerous times before she was provided with the number to the coroner's office.

Melina Abdullah, an organizer and original member of Black Lives Matter, told LAist that there is surveillance video, which they have requested, as well as log books indicating Wilson when entered and exited her cell. There is also conflicting information about where Wilson's body was found, Abdullah says.

"[Police say that Wilson hanged] herself from a phone booth that sits on the wall. We know that that's a really preposterous claim. [The phone booth] is only two to three feet off of the floor with an 11-inch cord. There were reports that her body was found in the middle of the cell. That's also something that doesn't really quite match up with their story. And then her mother got an initial report that there was a conflict between [Wilson] and one of the guards just shortly before she was found dead," she says.

Abdullah believes this information indicates foul play. She compares Wilson's death to that of Sandra Bland, a 28-year-old black woman who reportedly hanged herself in a Texas jail cell in July of 2015. Bland's death was widely reported and sparked a number of protests. However, Abdullah believes there's more evidence in Wilson's case than Bland's that something was amiss.

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"I think there is a statement to be made about what kind of PR must be happening in Los Angeles for this not to gain the kind of national media attention that it should," she says. "There's no way that a young, black woman should enter a jail cell on a very minor charge and not return home." She also criticizes the LAPD for not reaching out to Wilson's family sooner.

L.A. County Coroner spokesman Ed Winter told the Times that family notification was delayed because Wilson was removed from the jail and transported to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead. He said that notification of death can often be delayed, as coroner's officials first have to confirm the deceased's identity.

"That becomes normal, unfortunately, because of our caseload," he said.

Wilson had been arrested on March 26 around 1 a.m. on suspicion of battery, according to the L.A. Times. Attorney Jaaye Person-Lynn told the Times that Wilson's family says that simply being arrested is unlikely to have provoked Wilson to kill herself, as Wilson has a history of bipolar disorder and had been arrested in the past. Wilson also had a 13-year-old son, who her family said she had just made plans to talk with shortly before her death.