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Man who lost gay pride nudity case against San Diego police dies of apparent suicide

Man who lost gay pride nudity case against San Diego police dies of apparent suicide
A runner carries a stylized American flag in the San Diego LGBT Pride 5K race on July 16, 2016. (Howard Lipin / San Diego Union-Tribune)

A man who unsuccessfully sued San Diego police over his public nudity arrest at a gay pride festival was found dead Wednesday night at his apartment in an apparent suicide, authorities said.

The death of Will X. Walters comes about two weeks after a federal jury delivered the verdict in favor of police.

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Walters' attorney, Chris Morris, said Walters was shocked by the Dec. 13 verdict and left the downtown San Diego federal courthouse immediately after it was announced. Morris said he hadn't heard from Walters since and had tried to reach him.

San Diego police were called to the apartment by a neighbor late Wednesday. It was unknown when Walters died. The county medical examiner's office said the death remained under investigation.

"Will Walters was a valiant warrior for his cause, and he will be missed by those who knew him and the community he fought for," Morris said Thursday.

Walters sued San Diego police, claiming they violated his civil rights when they arrested him at the 2011 San Diego Pride Parade and Festival at Balboa Park. He was wearing a custom-made gladiator kilt with front and back panels that didn't fully cover his buttocks.

He refused to cover up when asked to by police and was arrested for public nudity and taken to jail when he would not sign the misdemeanor citation.

The case went to trial earlier this month after the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Walters' favor. The lower court had originally sided with the city and dismissed the suit with a summary judgment.

Walters claimed he was the target of discrimination due to his sexual orientation, but a jury disagreed.

Walters had racked up roughly $1 million in legal costs, his legal team said earlier this month.

"He was a young activist, and many of us thought he had a bright future in our community," said Nicole Murray-Ramirez, a San Diego LGBT leader and city Human Relations commissioner.

Despite the verdict, Murray-Ramirez said Walters had hoped the case would educate the public and law enforcement officers about biases.

Davis writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune

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