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$2.5 Million in Claims Filed in Jeweler’s Death

Times Staff Writer

Claims of $2.5 million were filed Friday against the City of Beverly Hills and the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on behalf of slain Van Cleef & Arpels store manager Hugh Skinner, who was shot and killed by a sheriff’s sharpshooter after a 13 1/2-hour siege at the posh jewelry store, officials said.

The first to be submitted in the wake of Monday’s tragedy, the claims were filed by San Francisco attorney Melvin Belli at the behest of Skinner’s nephew, Carl Skinner, and nieces, Cathy Donner and Karen Scheck, all from the Los Angeles area. Hugh Skinner, 64, was one of three store employees killed in the bloody siege. Two other employees who had been held hostage were hurt.

According to the claims, police actions during the standoff were “unjustified, unreasonable, unfair, unprofessional,” Belli said Friday. “The result was a wrongful death.”

Law enforcement agencies, Belli added, “should have been able to . . . save the guy’s life they were supposed to save, instead of shooting him. . . . When you call the cops, you don’t call an executioner.”

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Both Beverly Hills police and members of the sheriff’s special weapons team were involved in the standoff. Sheriff Sherman Block has acknowledged that Skinner was slain by a sheriff’s marksman, who had mistaken him for the armed robber.

Attorneys in Belli’s office said the claims are a precursor to a lawsuit that will likely be filed on behalf of Skinner’s estate later this year. A claim must be submitted at least 100 days before any lawsuit is filed.

“If they accept responsibility, we won’t have to file a lawsuit,” attorney Kevin McLean explained. “That doesn’t happen very often. In essence, we will be filing a suit.”

Other than verifying that the claims were received, officials of both the city and county declined comment.

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Meantime, suspect Steven Livaditis, 22, is expected to be arraigned Monday morning in Beverly Hills Municipal Court on three counts of murder and 12 other felonies stemming from the aborted robbery. Prosecutors are expected to seek the death penalty for each of the murders, including the killing of Skinner, a spokesman for the district attorney’s office said. The spokesman said that under state law, Livaditis can be charged with Skinner’s death because it occurred during the commission of a felony--the attempted robbery.

2 Slain Inside

The bodies of two other employees--saleswoman Ann Heilperin, 40, and security guard William Richard Smith, 54--were found inside the store, apparently executed by the robber.

Livaditis, who was burned by flash grenades hurled by sheriff’s deputies when he tried to escape from the store, remained in satisfactory condition Friday in the County-USC Medical Center jail ward.

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Meanwhile, Van Cleef & Arpels officials announced that the store would reopen for business on July 7.

“There will be employees in the store before then, but just hanging out,” said manager Larry French. “We want to be with each other.”


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