This article contains sensitive content related to the shooting of Xzavier Hill. Reader discretion is advised.
A grand jury unanimously ruled Friday that Virginia State Police were justified in using lethal force against 18-year-old Charlottesville resident Xzavier Hill following a high-speed chase on Interstate 64 that ended in Goochland County, Va. in the early morning hours of Jan. 9.
The high-speed chase, which began when officers recorded Hill traveling at 96 mph in a 65 mph zone, ended with Hill’s car resting in a ditch on the side of the highway. According to the officers, when they approached the vehicle with their weapons drawn, Hill pulled a gun on them, leading them to use lethal force.
“On January 9, 2021, Xzavier Deyonte Hill initiated and continued to engage in an escalating course of dangerous conduct resulting in a violent confrontation with law-enforcement," the grand jury report states. "Mr. Hill's failure to comply with the commands of the Troopers and then introduce a firearm into a rapidly evolving event provided a reasonable basis for the officers to believe they were in imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death."
The newly released dashcam video shows the high-speed pursuit of Hill, who hits speeds approaching 120 mph after police turn on the car’s emergency lights. At one point, Hill attempts a U-turn, leading to his vehicle to slide into a ditch where it appears to get stuck on the side of the highway.
Troopers S. Layton and B. Bone — whose first names are not included in the grand jury report — then approach the vehicle, demanding Hill show them his hands and get out of the vehicle. Hill repeatedly responds that his vehicle does not open, to which Layton asks that he put his hands out the door.
As the troopers continue to approach the vehicle with their guns drawn, both can be heard telling Hill to "stop reaching.” The dashcam footage shows Hill’s left hand outside of his vehicle window for several seconds — as Hill appears to reach for the exterior door handle — before he brings it back inside. The camera is too far away to show whether Hill reaches for anything in his vehicle, which the police officers allege occurred.
After one officer shines a light into the vehicle, both officers shout “gun,” after which four shots are fired into the car. Bone fired three shots and Layton fired one during the shooting.
Due to the distance between the dashcam and the encounter and the downward sloping angle of Hill’s car, it is not possible to see a gun in Hill’s car on the released footage.
Following the shooting, the officers attempt to locate the gun in the car before pulling the mortally wounded Hill out of the car. Hill was hit by three bullets and died from a gunshot wound to the neck, according to the autosophy report.
According to the grand jury report, a gun was found in the passenger seat of the car after the shooting. The gun that was found — a .40 caliber Smith & Wesson semiautomatic pistol — matched the report of a gun that had been stolen from a vehicle between Jan. 7 and Jan. 10. The owner of the gun, who was known to Hill, had the gun stolen from his vehicle that Hill had been in on Jan. 8.
Two images recovered from Hill’s cell phone showed him holding an object in his right hand that looked similar to a semiautomatic pistol. A separate image shows the stolen Smith & Wesson and a magazine in the lap of someone in the driver’s seat of Hill’s car.
Hill's family was allowed to view the dashcam video in the days after the Jan. 9 shooting. Hill’s mother, LaToya Benton, said in a news conference on Jan. 15 that she believed the shooting was unjustified, stating the officers never gave Hill a chance to exit the car, that he placed his left hand outside the window when ordered to be troopers and that no gun was visible in the video.
Protestors had gathered in multiple cities and towns in Virginia over the past few weeks demanding the release of the dashcam footage. On Feb. 9, protesters in Charlottesville marched across Grounds and gathered at the Rotunda to demand the release of the dashcam footage and advocate for justice in the case.
Some student organizations at the University are still seeking justice for Hill. Political Latinxs United for Movement and Action in Society has organized a raffle contest, of which all the profits will go to Benton.
“Xzavier was both villainized and criminalized in the grand jury report,” the group’s social media post said. “We know that the state and kops lie and will always protect themselves. It is our duty to keep fighting until the police are abolished and our communities are funded with life-affirming resources.”
PLUMAS, the Black Student Alliance and the Minority Rights Coalition organized a Zoom meeting Sunday for the purpose of “healing, channeling and recharging” in the wake of the grand jury report, dashcam footage release and other acts of violence in the Charlottesville area.