RIP SSgt. Hill
Damn, I knew this guy when I was with 2d Tanks (c.1992). WTH happened?
Posted on Thu, Jan. 31, 2008
A raid, a shoot-out, and questions
The FBI came to Darius Hill's door with a warrant. Soon afterward, he was dead.
By Larry King and Jonathan Mattise
Inquirer Staff Writers
Rebecca Hill considered her husband, Darius, "the most honorable person I've ever met."
A Marine veteran who served in the first Gulf War, the home-improvement contractor lived near Perkasie with his wife and two small daughters, a seemingly placid man with "Death Before Dishonor" tattooed on his right arm.
That he died Monday night in a hail of bullets in his upstairs bedroom during an FBI raid of their Hilltown Township home has left Rebecca Hill beyond incredulous.
"I just don't understand what happened in my bedroom for things to have turned out this way," Rebecca Hill, 39, said yesterday.
Darius Hill, 39, died of multiple gunshot wounds early Monday evening. One of the wounds was self-inflicted, Bucks County Coroner Joseph Campbell said, but it remained unclear whether that wound was fatal.
While scant information has been released about what happened in the Hill house Monday, Bucks County District Attorney Michelle Henry did confirm last night that "the federal search warrant was for the possession and distribution of child pornography."
She did not have a detailed list of what was seized but said it included computer equipment.
Law enforcement authorities did not disclose the shooting for nearly 24 hours.
The FBI refused to comment, other than to say that the shooting was being investigated internally.
Henry said that Bucks County detectives were investigating whether the use of deadly force was justified, and she confirmed that Darius Hill was holding a handgun. She would not elaborate on the shooting or what led to it.
Rebecca Hill was present only for the outset of the raid and has gleaned few bits of information. She said she knew of no involvement by her husband in child pornography.
The search-warrant application remained sealed yesterday.
Having briefly returned to the home on Tuesday, Rebecca Hill said it appeared her husband was shot near a window of their bedroom. The window was broken and bore two bullet holes; blood dripped from the sill, and a patch of carpet beside it had been bloodstained, she said.
Her husband kept a handgun, locked in a box, in a drawer beside his bed for protection, she said.
"I can't understand how something like this happened if they were just there to search my house," she said. "No one can tell me what happened in the bedroom for my husband to feel threatened.
"Did anyone say where they were from? Did anyone tell him why they were there? No one can tell me."
She had answered the door shortly before 7 p.m. Monday. On the step was a uniformed Hilltown Township officer; behind him, two men in plainclothes.
Her young daughters, 5-year-old Shelby and 3-year-old Reagan, ran excitedly in their pajamas to the door. "They thought it was the pizza man," Hill said.
The officer "told me that they were there to serve a federal search warrant," she recalled.
He asked how many people were in the house; she told him the three of them and her husband, who had been watching TV news in the living room.
She then heard footsteps on the stairway, "and the officer walked right past me. . . . All of a sudden, there were people coming through my door real fast."
The Hilltown officer reappeared, clearly anxious. " 'Ma'am, you need to grab your kids and get out of here,' " she recalled him saying.
He led them to a police cruiser parked on Callowhill Street. Rebecca Hill was in bare feet. She said the children, in socks, cried as the gravel driveway hurt their feet. Hill said she heard the officer, whose name she did not know, say "barricade" into his clip-on shoulder mike.
She demanded to know what was happening.
" 'Ma'am, I don't know what's going on,' " she said the officer replied. " 'We have a situation.' " He drove them to the police station.
At least four or five men, all in plainclothes, had run past her into the house, Hill said. None had identified himself as an FBI agent, she said.
More than two hours later, Bucks County Detective Terry Lachman and another man arrived to interview her.
When Lachman asked her about child pornography, "I told him I had no idea what he was talking about. I told him whatever was in my house, they were welcome to look for it."
About 20 minutes into the interview, she said, she demanded to know where her husband was. "That's when he said, 'Ma'am, we regret to inform you that your husband was fatally shot in a confrontation.' "
Hill's family has hired a private attorney, Greg Mitsch of Doylestown, to look into the shooting. Mitsch said he had retained forensic pathologist William Manion, deputy medical examiner for Burlington County, to re-autopsy the body once it is released.
For now, Rebecca Hill said she was hard-pressed to imagine her husband in a gun battle with the FBI.
A Bucks County native who graduated from Pennridge High School, he enlisted in the Marines and served as a tank commander in Kuwait during the first Gulf War, she said. She met him after his discharge at Camp Lejeune, N.C., and they married almost seven years ago.
"Despite having been in the Marines, he never cusses, never says a bad word," she said, still speaking of him in the present tense. "It's very hard to rile Darius up."
Posted on Fri, Feb. 1, 2008
The photos that led to deadly raid
Computers in Darius Hill's Bucks home were linked to hundreds of child-porn images, a Utah agent said.
By Larry King
Inquirer Staff Writer
The images arrived in sporadic batches, hundreds of photos showing children in sexually explicit activities.
Collecting them on his computer in Utah, state agent Steve Gamvroulas said, he eventually traced the sender to a home in Hilltown Township, Bucks County.
The evidence, Gamvroulas said yesterday, "was so good, so convincing," that FBI agents last Friday obtained a federal warrant to search the home where Darius Hill, 39, lived with his wife and two small daughters.
Three days later, Hill lay dead in his bedroom, shot six times - once by his own hand - in an after-dark raid that turned deadly.
At least three investigations into Hill's death are now under way: two by law enforcement agencies, one by a lawyer hired by Hill's family.
Child pornographers "know what they're facing" if convicted, Gamvroulas said, when asked why Hill might have shot it out with the FBI. "But you don't expect that kind of reaction, that's for sure."
Much remains unclear about the events that resulted in Hill's death about 7 p.m. Monday.
Officials have not said whether Hill had tried to barricade himself in his second-floor bedroom. Nor have they said whether agents feared he was about to destroy evidence or whether he had pointed a gun at them.
Bucks County District Attorney Michelle Henry has said only that Hill was holding a handgun when the shooting began. An investigation by county detectives into how the violence unfolded is still in progress, she said.
County Coroner Joseph Campbell said Hill had suffered two fatal wounds - one through the heart, and a self-inflicted gunshot into his mouth. Whether Hill committed suicide, he said, depends on the detectives' conclusions about the sequence of the shots.
Hill had three other wounds to the torso and one to a thigh, Campbell said.
An internal FBI investigation - mandatory whenever an on-duty agent discharges a gun - is also under way.
Meanwhile, an independent autopsy requested by an attorney for Hill's family is expected to be performed today in Mount Holly. The lawyer, Greg Mitsch of Doylestown, said he would then wait for Campbell's final report, which likely will include some of the county detectives' conclusions, before deciding whether to probe further.
In an interview with The Inquirer on Wednesday, Hill's widow, Rebecca, said a Hilltown officer and at least four men in plainclothes had come to her door shortly before 7 p.m. Monday. Moments after she heard footsteps on the stairway - apparently her husband headed for the bedroom - the plainclothes agents rushed inside and the Hilltown officer hustled her and her daughters, ages 5 and 3, to a nearby patrol car.
Two hours later, at the Hilltown police station, she learned that her husband had been killed in what was termed "a confrontation."
Darius Hill, a hulking Marine veteran who worked as a home-improvement contractor, has been described by family and friends as a doting father.
Yet he had come under federal scrutiny for allegedly possessing and distributing child pornography.
According to federal records released yesterday, agents seized three computers, an assortment of compact discs, camera equipment, and other items from Hill's home Monday night. An affidavit detailing the evidence against him remains under seal in Philadelphia's U.S. District Court.
Gamvroulas, an agent assigned to Utah's Internet Crimes Against Children task force, said he first received child porn from Hill's computer while working online under the profile of a cooperating child pornographer.
"It was over a period of eight months, just on and off," Gamvroulas said. "He could send me a bunch of images at one time and then I wouldn't talk to him again for months."
Through a series of subpoenas on Web-site hosts and Internet providers, Gamvroulas said, he identified the sender's address as Hill's home. He said he had no evidence that Hill was producing the images, only that someone in his house was obtaining and distributing them.
Depending on the strength of their evidence, Gamvroulas said, agents can either knock on a suspect's door and ask for permission to search a computer, or obtain a search warrant. Either way, he said, police typically investigate a suspect beforehand, checking gun registrations, criminal histories, even dog ownership, to see if they might encounter trouble.
"Sometimes they won't even let you in the door," he said. "That's the risk you take, because you know as soon as you leave that house, whatever is on that computer is going to disappear shortly thereafter."
In Hill's case, the FBI obtained a search warrant late Friday afternoon in Philadelphia from U.S. Magistrate Carol Sandra Moore Wells.
"If I had gotten information from an agency that was similar to what I had provided them," Gamvroulas said, "there is no doubt I would have gone with a search warrant. The evidence was so good, so convincing."
But not even a warrant guarantees cooperation.
Last spring, a Delaware County man known to own about 20 guns held off FBI agents for 27 minutes while he destroyed much of the evidence they sought. The agents, aware of the weapons, did not immediately force their way in.
The suspect, Roderick Vosburgh, a former college instructor and police dispatcher, was found guilty in November on child-pornography charges.
Hill kept several guns - hunting rifles and a handgun - in his home, his wife said. Authorities have not disclosed whether they knew of the weapons before serving the warrant Monday night.