Death in ‘Rock House’ Raid Prompts Lawsuit

Times Staff Writer

Relatives of a woman killed by a “flash bang” explosive device hurled by police raiding a so-called “rock house” have filed a multimillion-dollar damage suit against Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl F. Gates, the city and makers of the devices.

The suit, filed Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court, contends that the acts of the police in the Dec. 13, 1984, raid were intentional and malicious and “part of a continuing policy of unconstitutional and dangerous ‘military-type’ raids upon black neighborhoods.”

Lessie Haynesworth, 45, was burned on the back and died from blunt force trauma to the chest, injuries consistent with the type caused by an explosive device, the coroner’s office reported after the incident.


“She was just sitting there watching TV when the thing came in the window and hit her,” attorney David Henry Simon said. Simon said the suit reinforces and extends earlier litigation the family has pending in federal and state court.

Haynesworth died shortly after police lobbed several diversionary explosive devices into the South-Central Los Angeles house. Officers seized seven grams of cocaine in the house and arrested seven people on drug-related charges.

The suit seeks $10 million in punitive and exemplary damages.

The suit names Gates, Police Capt. John Higgins and the late Detective Arleigh McCree, killed in a North Hollywood bomb blast earlier this month, as defendants, as well as the city and manufacturers and distributors of the so-called “flash bang” and “stun bomb” explosive devices used in the raid.