Little is known about 34-year-old struggling porn actor Stephen Clancy Hill at the moment, but that won’t remain the case for long. With police investigations into the events that led up to the killing of Herbert Hin Wong on Tuesday night and Stephen Hill’s death on Saturday, there will no doubt be reams of material about Stephen Clancy Hill forthcoming. And in that deluge of information will come details about Hill’s family. After watching several of the videos of the 8-hour standoff between a suicidal Stephen Hill and a cautious Los Angeles Police Department, there is little doubt that if Stephen Clancy Hill has any surviving family members, they will seek a wrongful death lawsuit against the LAPD and all concerned.
The videos of Stephen Clancy Hill at the cliff’s edge show a man brandishing a sword (believed to be the one used in the death of Herbert Wong). He reportedly alternated between threatening to kill himself by jumping from the cliff or from impalement. After eight hours of standoff, police decided to attempt to subdue the actor when Hill moved as if to make good on his threat and jump.
LAPD Detective Gus Villanueva told KABC, “It appeared he was going to take his life, so the decision was made to deploy less-lethal munitions. The munitions were deployed. He then leapt off the cliff.”
The detective’s synopsis of the situation is accurate. However, there is a couple seconds that stand out in the video where the suspect actually turns from the officers and positions himself before pushing off the cliff’s edge. He is tasered but he ignores the paralyzing probes and leaps anyway.
It will be those scant moments when Hill turns and slides, gets tasered and jumps, that Stephen Hill’s friends and family members will more than likely seize upon for a wrongful death lawsuit. In a wrongful death case, the plaintiff (the family) attempts to prove that the defendant (the LAPD) was negligent and contributed to the death of the decedent, which has brought hardship upon the decedent’s family due to his untimely absence. They will argue that the LAPD used questionable force and were negligent, that if just one of the men that surrounded Stephen Hill in the seconds before he jumped had simply reached out and grabbed him, he might have lived. They will most likely say that more should have been done, other methods of negotiation used, various safety precautions employed. They will also probably stipulate that Stephen Hill might not have jumped at all had the police officers not rushed him and/or tasered him.
Lawyers for the LAPD and Los Angeles County will undoubtedly counter that argument with one in which they point out that Stephen Hill was a wanted and armed man, wanted for killing one individual and wounding two others with a knife such as the one he was wielding, a knife that might well be turned against the police officers attempting to save his life. They will also point out that the officers showed due caution toward Hill because of his seeming agitated state of mind and, after the taser was deployed, he seemed impervious to its intended effects, which was to render him inert.
But a wrongful death lawsuit is difficult to prove — even with numerous videos.
Of course, in this case, a wrongful death lawsuit might not be brought at all. But it is a safe bet that Los Angeles County is already preparing itself for just such claims.
Stephen Clancy Hill became a wanted man when he attacked three co-workers Tuesday night at an adult film production building where he was residing. He had been evicted and was being asked to leave before Wednesday when he grabbed a nearby stage prop, a samurai sword, and attacked a colleague. When two other co-workers came to the screaming man’s aid, Hill attacked them as well, inflicting a mortal wound to Herbert Wong’s torso. Hill then fled the scene. The three wounded men were taken to the hospital where Wong later died during surgery.
Video surveillance footage at the Ultima DVD production building shows Sephen Hill leaving the facility with the weapon he used in the attack.
Hill had a history of violence. In 1998, while a student at the University of Maryland, he threatened a teacher with a gun to get an ‘A’ on a test. Court records show he was convicted in 1999 of second-degree assault and a handgun charge.
Stephen Clancy Hill not only was reportedly living at the production building but he was working there as well. A web designer, he worked on the company’s web site. He also starred in some of the movies being made. He is credited with making 13 films under the screen name ‘Steve Driver.’