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A California mother and so, who plunged to their deaths from the concourse level of Petco Park during a San Diego Padres game last September was ruled a murder-suicide, police said.
The deaths of Raquel Wilkins, 40, and her 2-year-old son, Denzel Browning-Wilkins, were determined to be non-accidental following an “exhaustive investigation,” according to a San Diego Police Department press release. The mother and son died after falling several stories from the Major League Baseball stadium in San Diego.
A preliminary autopsies has since concluded the mother and son’s September deaths were the result of a murder-suicide.
"In consultation with the San Diego County Medical Examiner, Raquel Wilkins' death has been classified a suicide and Denzel Browning-Wilkins' death has been classified a homicide," Lt. Andra Brown, a public information officer for the San Diego Police Department said in a statement sent to Oxygen.com on Thursday. "The detectives conducted a thorough and comprehensive investigation that included dozens of interviews, reviewing available video footage and collecting background information to determine what led to the deaths.”
The tragic incident unfolded just prior to an afternoon game between the San Diego Padres and the Atlanta Braves on Sept. 25, 2021. Shortly before 4 p.m., on-duty San Diego police officers stationed at Petco Park received reports that two people had possibly fallen from the concourse level of the baseball stadium — which is about six stories up — along the third base line. A pair of officers later discovered Wilkins and her 2-year-old son’s bodies on the sidewalk at 200 Tony Gwynn Drive.
Both Raquel Wilkins and Denzel Browning-Wilkins were pronounced dead at the scene, despite first responders’ attempts to revive them both. Homicide investigators were called to the scene after police deemed the mother and son’s deaths suspicious.
Detectives subsequently learned Wilkins and her toddler son had been eating in Petco Park’s dining and concessions area on the third-level of the ballpark shortly before the deadly fall. A witness told the San Diego Union-Tribune that Wilkins had stood up on the bench of a picnic table near the railing with her son and jumped up and down in two separate incidents before going over the railing the second time.
"The woman started jumping on the bench of the table closest to the railing, holding the baby in her arms," the unnamed witness said in a statement to the paper. "She seemed happy — laughing."
The witness said the woman fell off the bench and landed by the picnic table, but got up again within a minute and began bouncing, after which she went over the railing.
The witness heard the sound of the pair landing and left without speaking to police. She told the paper that the man with them, who appeared to be the child's father, watched them fall and appeared to be in shock.
The paper confirmed with the family and police that the child's father was with them at the park at the time. Wilkins, the Union-Tribune said, had announced her engagement to the man on Facebook just before her death.
It’s unclear what may have led to or triggered the murder-suicide. The San Diego Police Department declined to comment further on the open case on Thursday.
Authorities said the 40-year-old mother and son were both residents of San Diego. Their family members have since been notified of the murder-suicide ruling, police, and have requested privacy. Wilkins' parents have filed a wrongful death suit against the city and Petco Park, ESPN reported, and plan to file a tort against the city this week.
Their lawyer "expressed disappointment" that the police hadn't been more forthcoming with the family about the investigation or how they reached their conclusions.
Law enforcement officials also stated tip lines were flooded with information from concerned citizens and other ballpark spectators for weeks after news of the tragedy involving Wilkins and her son broke in September.
“[San Diego Police Department] understands the public’s concern and interest in this tragedy that happened publicly in a venue where the community gathers,” police added. “We would like to thank all those who came forward with information.
The San Diego Padres also lamented the loss of life stemming from the murder-suicide on Thursday.
“We want to reiterate our deepest sympathy and condolences to the family of those involved in this tragedy,” a spokesperson for the Major League franchise said in a statement sent to Oxygen.com.
Anyone with additional information regarding Wilkins’ and her son’s deaths are urged to call the San Diego Police Department’s Homicide Unit at 619-531-2293 or by submitting an anonymous tip via Crime Stoppers by calling 888-580-8477.
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