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Ex-NFL player’s family says he died from excessive force while in custody of L.A. County

The family of Stanley Wilson Jr. said that, prior to his death on February 1, the 40-year-old ex-NFL player had been beaten by Los Angeles County law enforcement officers. The family claimed in a damages lawsuit filed Tuesday to the county’s Board of Supervisors.

Wilson was arrested in November 2022 for trespassing and detained at LA’s Twin Towers Correctional Facility. Family attorney John C. Carpenter told NBC News that the former cornerback was being held there because he was deemed too incompetent to stand trial. Wilson, who had a history of mental illness, had no known medical problems that would cause sudden death until January 31, Carpenter said, “yet, at 9:30 a.m. the next day, he was dead.”

Carpenter said Wilson’s family was briefed by the county coroner’s investigator on the circumstances surrounding their son’s death. The first was that he collapsed and died in his cell in the Twin Towers, she said. Later, Carpenter said a second report said she died in the ambulance on the way to Metropolitan State Hospital, a psychiatric facility. Carpenter said the family was then told that “he fell out of his chair,” and died as medical providers asked him questions about intake.

The LA County Medical Examiner-Coroner did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wilson’s death.

“We don’t know who was with her when she died,” Carpenter said, “and we don’t know what efforts were made to save her life.” But a healthy 40 year old man should not have gone through this.

The family said they were not told what caused his death or why there were multiple injury marks on his body. They are also unsure whether he was in the custody of the sheriff’s department or correctional officers at the time of his death.

“We don’t know which is the truth and that’s why we filed the claim,” Carpenter said, “so we can get to the bottom of it and find out the truth about what happened to Stanley Wilson Jr.”

Carpenter said that when Wilson’s parents requested their son’s medical records from Metropolitan State Hospital, administrators there told them that he had never been admitted. Wilson’s parents said they have not yet received the post-mortem report from either the county coroner or a private investigator they hired. The law firm and Wilson’s family took photographs of him after viewing his body. Bruises on Wilson’s head and hands in photographs seen by NBC News prompted the family to file damages claims with the county. Carpenter said that the marks on Wilson’s wrist showed that he had been restrained at the time of his death. This contradicts what the county had told Wilson’s family – that there were no marks on her body, they said.

Stanley Wilson #31 of the Detroit Lions celebrates during a 2006 game against the Dallas Cowboys in Irving, Texas.
Stanley Wilson #31 of the Detroit Lions celebrates during a 2006 game against the Dallas Cowboys in Irving, Texas. Ronald Martinez / Getty Images

Three separate claims for damages were filed on Wilson’s behalf with the L.A. County Board of Supervisors, including one by his father and former NFL running back Stanley Wilson Sr. and his mother, D. Pullane Lucas, a teacher and businesswoman. The owner was involved. Wilson’s estate filed a third claim. LA County has 45 days to review the claim.

An LA County spokeswoman told NBC News it offered “its deepest sympathies to Mr. Wilson’s family,” but could not comment pending litigation. The spokesperson also said that his office had not yet received the claims and, to his understanding, Wilson “died following his transfer to Metro State Hospital.”

After playing for Stanford University, Wilson was drafted in the third round of the 2005 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions. He played cornerback for three seasons and scored 86 tackles during his NFL career before experiencing a knee injury in 2007 and an Achilles injury during the 2008 preseason.

Wilson was arrested several times in June 2017, including for attempting to break into a stranger’s home.

A celebration of Wilson’s life was held Saturday at the Crenshaw Christian Center in Los Angeles.

Carpenter said that while Wilson’s family is seeking $45 million in damages, what the family really wants is truth. People with mental illnesses like Wilson Jr. are considered “marginal,” he said, adding that L.A. County was responsible for them.

“Whatever was admitted to his body was handled by the county,” Carpenter said. “Every piece of food, every piece of medicine, everything that’s bought—everything. They were in complete control. And the least the county could do was tell the grieving parents that their son What happened to – true.”



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