Police conclude mother killed herself, 2-year-old son in Petco Park fall
A police investigation has concluded that a San Diego mother intentionally killed herself and her 2-year-old son last September when they fell off a six-story concourse at Petco Park before a Padres game, a homicide lieutenant said Wednesday.
An attorney for the woman’s family said police have provided no explanation of what led investigators to a homicide-suicide conclusion. The attorney said he believed the San Diego Police Department was trying to shield the city — which owns 70% of Petco Park — from liability in the deaths of the mother and son.
Raquel Wilkins, 40, and Denzel Browning-Wilkins died Sept. 25, just before the start of the Padres’ penultimate home game of the season, when they fell from the third level of the ballpark just as thousands of fans were heading inside, San Diego police homicide Lt. Andra Brown said in a statement last year.
Police labeled the deaths “suspicious” and launched a homicide investigation.
“Raquel Wilkins’ death has been classified a suicide and Denzel Browning-Wilkins’ death has been classified a homicide,” Brown said in a news release Wednesday. She said San Diego police would not comment further on the case.
Brown said detectives came to the homicide-suicide conclusion after “detectives conducted a thorough and comprehensive investigation that included dozens of interviews, reviewing of available video footage, and collecting background information to determine what led to the deaths.”
Attorney Dan Gilleon represents Wilkins’ father, mother and sisters, and said Wednesday that police have “refused to provide us an ounce of information” and “flat out refused to explain” how they concluded Wilkins killed herself and her son.
In an email Wednesday, Brown wrote that homicide investigators “do not typically [release] information to the suspect’s family.” She said police had notified the victim’s family of the homicide-suicide finding but did not say whether police provided more information to that family about what led detectives to their conclusion.
Gilleon called the homicide-suicide finding a defense for the city against impending legal action.
“The city of San Diego owns that ballpark, it is legally responsible, assuming that what caused her to fall was anything but her intent,” Gilleon said Wednesday. “The only way the city is not at fault is if she intended to kill herself and her baby.”
Wilkins and her son fell about 3:50 p.m. from the equivalent of six stories high to the sidewalk on Tony Gwynn Drive. While efforts were made to resuscitate them, it quickly became apparent that neither had survived, Brown said at the time. They were pronounced dead at 4:11 p.m.
They had been at a dining area on the concourse level before the fall, police Lt. Adam Sharki said last September. The child’s father was at the ballpark at the time, police reported.
Two days after the deadly fall, a witness gave her account of what she saw to the Union-Tribune through a statement released by her daughter. The Union-Tribune was in contact with the daughter but was unable to interview the witness directly.
The woman, who said she gave a statement to police on the day of the deaths, said she and her son were eating near Wilkins and her family at picnic tables on the concourse. She said she saw Wilkins holding her son while jumping on the bench of a table closest to the railing.
“She seemed happy — laughing,” the witness said in the statement to the Union-Tribune.
Wilkins lost her balance and fell off the bench, landing back on the concourse, according to the witness, who said she remarked to her son that the woman and baby had almost tumbled over the railing.
About 30 seconds to a minute later, Wilkins again jumped onto the bench of the picnic table while holding the child , according to the witness, who said she commented to her son that she couldn’t believe the woman had stood back up on the bench after falling the first time.
“She again lost her balance and this time, fell over the edge,” the witness said. “From my vantage point, looking at her back, it was almost like she rolled over the railing.”
The witness said the man with them — believed to be the child’s father — was looking over the edge of the railing and appeared to be in shock.
Gilleon, the attorney for Wilkins’ family, mentioned the witness’ account Wednesday and called it “extraordinarily dangerous and stupid” that picnic tables had been pushed up so close to the roughly waist-high railing.
In a follow-up text message Wednesday, Gilleon wrote that “like any other property owner, [the city was] required to keep people on [its] property safe.”
He accused the city of almost immediately blaming the deaths on Wilkins, pointing to Mayor Todd Gloria’s comments to FOX5 San Diego just two days after the fall in which Gloria said in part that “there is no need to harm a child, to traumatize others in our community.”
The mayor later apologized to Wilkins’ family for making the comment, but Gilleon wrote Wednesday that “Four months later, the City’s police went to the media and said the Mayor was right” to blame Wilkins for the deaths.
Gloria’s office did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment Wednesday.
The Padres, who own 30% of Petco Park, issued a statement the morning after the deaths saying the team was “deeply saddened by the loss of life at Petco Park last evening. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of those involved. We will continue to refrain from comment on the nature of the incident as it is an ongoing investigation by the San Diego Police Department.”
In the police statement, Brown, the homicide lieutenant, thanked those who came forward with information and said anyone affected by the incident can contact the county district attorney’s victim assistance program at (619) 531-4041.
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