I hadn’t heard of this one, and I don’t know how I missed it. But this, this story, is the problem with America, from the day it all began four years ago, right up through today and tomorrow unless, and until, we as a country get our act together and stop allowing this to happen unchecked and unpunished.
And let’s be clear, we allow it because we do nothing after we hear the story; maybe it’s because something good is on TV, or you got a new Snapchat you need to see, or a video game to play, or any number of other things that matter not one bit when compared the to life of anyone; or someone like Gregory Vaughn Hill Jr.
At 3PM in the afternoon, January14, 2014, two St. Lucie County Sheriff ‘s deputies, Christopher Newman and Edward Lopez, went to Gregory Vaughn Hill Jr.'s home. See, Hill, a 30-year-old black man—and that shouldn’t make a difference except that it makes all the difference—was loudly playing an expletive-laden song by Drake, and someone complained.
A woman, picking her children up from a nearby school called in the noise complaint, and Deputies Newman and Lopez were sent out to Hill’s home. When they arrived, they found the garage door closed; they banged on it, and eventually Hill opened for them.
The deputies say Hill was brandishing a gun and refused to drop it when ordered; words were exchanged and then Gregory Vaughn Hill Jr. closed his garage door on the deputies. Then, Christopher Newman fired four shots through the closed door, hitting Gregory Vaughn Hill Jr. once in the head and twice in the chest.
A SWAT team was called; they released chemical agents into the home, and then used a robot to pierce the garage door and photograph the inside. Gregory Vaughn Hill Jr. was dead, and his gun, his unloaded gun, was in his back pocket.
He was killed for a lot of reasons, I guess; for playing music too loudly in his own home in the middle of the day … for being drunk, in his own home … for being Black in America … for brandishing a weapon, though of the three witnesses as to whether or not he produced a gun, two are sheriff’s deputies and one, Gregory Vaughn Hill Jr., is dead.
Two years later, in 2016, after a jury failed to indict Christopher Newman in the shooting death of Gregory Vaughn Hill Jr. his family filed a wrongful-death lawsuit; they hoped to receive some compensation for their suffering and wanted a jury to determine if Gregory Vaughn Hill Jr.’s rights had been violated.
John Phillips, the Hill family's attorney, didn’t set a monetary amount, but hoped jurors would see fit to award the family several hundred thousand dollars. Eight hours into a 10-hour deliberation the jury indicated it was unable to reach a verdict, but the judge sent them back to continue; two hours later, they handed down their decision.
Though the jury decided that Deputy Newman had not used excessive force in the shooting, they awarded the Hill family monetary compensation for Gregory Vaughan Hill Jr.’s death.
They gave the family $4 in damages: $1 for funeral expenses and $1 for each child’s loss.
They decided that Gregory Vaughan Hill Jr.’s life was worth four dollars … except it wasn’t.
The jurors also felt that since the sheriff’s office was just one-percent at fault in Hill’s death, with Hill being 99-percent at fault, that four-dollar settlement was reduced to four cents.
A penny for each of his children, and a penny for funeral costs.
Only that’s not it either; the judge, Robin Rosenberg, felt that since Hill was very intoxicated at the time of the shooting, the award was reduced again … to nothing.
Gregory Vaughan Hill Jr.’s life was worth nothing … because he was playing profanity-laced music loudly in his own home in the middle of the day and was drunk and closed his garage door on deputies.
Not worth a damn.
Jurors did not stay after the verdict to speak with lawyers and have not reached out to John Phillips; Judge Rosenberg, who determined that Gregory Vaughan Hill Jr.’s life was worth nothing, is also not speaking.
No one is speaking; no one.
So, we must speak, all of us; say his name … Gregory Vaughan Hill Jr. … to everyone; tell his story to everyone. He wasn’t a perfect man, by a long shot, but who among us is? He had his foibles, his run-ins with law enforcement—though those were all traffic related—but who exactly was he hurting that January day in his own home, with his garage door shut, drinking, perhaps too much, and playing his music loud?
Who was getting hurt by that, because as far as I can see the only ones hurt, were Gregory Vaughan Hill Jr., and his family.
If his murder, and I don’t care what a jury said, Gregory Vaughan Hill Jr. was murdered by Christopher Newman, is just one of the many reasons why athletes are kneeling during the National Anthem, then we, all of us, should be kneeling all the time.
I mean, kneeling? A man is gun down through the closed door of his own home and his life is deemed to be worth just $4 dollars, then four-cents, and then nothing.
We should all be kneeling and screaming.