[UPDATED with OCSD comments:] Are Deputies Covering Up The Laguna Hills Murder of a 25-Year-Old U.S. Army Veteran?

[Update at end] ORIGINAL POST, JULY 11, 9:00 A.M.: The mother of a 25-year-old U.S. Army veteran found dead at an affluent Laguna Hills neighborhood playground on Jan. 6 claims her son was murdered and Orange County Sheriff's Department (OCSD) investigators didn't just wrongly rule the case a suicide but covered up a killing.

An angry Toni Battle, mother of Khalid Flimban, created a Facebook page to raise awareness about the death and the OCSD investigation, both of which she labels suspicious.

“The Sheriff's Department has lied, twisted things around and changed
their story I don't even know how many times now,” Battle told OC Weekly. “The
investigators have not talked to any neighbors and it took them five
months to even speak with me. I know my son did not commit suicide. He
was murdered.”

Flimban, a former OCSD Explorer, was found hanging in a playground at Santa Vittoria Park in Laguna Hills. After the discovery, the Orange County Register reported on the Buena Park resident's death in the affluent community, not identifying Flimban, but quoting OCSD spokesperson Jim Amormino that there were no signs of foul play.   

On Jan. 5, Flimban went with two friends to a house near the public park. One of his friends lives in the neighborhood adjacent to the park. About four hours later, he was found dead on the playground. Battle says no suicide note was found. She never received an autopsy report or a death certificate from the authorities.    

Battle claims she was first told by investigators that Flimban was found hanging from a tree out of view from the street. As it turns out, according to Battle, he was
actually found in plain view from the playground with a belt around his neck.

“My son did not own any
belts,” she said. “And they said it was tied in two knots. He could not
for the life of him tie a knot. He was face down and on the ground, and
now you are going to try to tell me he killed himself? I don't believe
one word they are saying.”   
Battle said she was
given all items that were on him, except
for his jacket and the belt that was tied around his neck. Authorities
have refused to give her either item, and have been uncooperative
throughout the whole ordeal, she claims.


Battle, a school bus driver, has been protesting outside of the Laguna Hills Civic Center for the past few weeks, holding signs reading “Murder in Vittoria Park” while handing out fliers to passing cars.

On June 25, Battle and her supporters–who wonder if Flimban was lynched–appealed to the Laguna Hills City Council during the public comment session. In response, city officials promised to help get answers. Battle met with Laguna Hills Mayor Melody Carruth, City Manager Bruce Channing and four sheriff's deputies before the council's July 10 meeting, but remains unsatisfied.   

“They think I'm dumb, they think I am really dumb,” she said. “They think they are going to get away with this but they're not. I am not going to stop, I am going to keep going out there and telling people what's going on until they finally do something about it.”

Sandra Longnecker, a sheriff's investigator on the case, declined an interview request.

Flimban served in the U.S. Army as a human resource specialist at Fort Irwin in California and Camp Stanley in Korea. He participated in Magnolia High's ROTC program and was named 4th place as the 2005 Overall Outstanding Explorer at the OC Sheriff's Explorer Winter Academy. Flimban attended Orange Crescent School, an Islamic elementary school in Garden Grove. He was starting his own business as a computer repairman before he died.
UPDATE, JULY 11 2:30 P.M.: Sheriff's spokesman Amormino said deputies completed a thorough investigation and concluded based on forensic evidence that the death was a suicide. He said the autopsy showed no injuries consistent with a struggle. Flimban was found to have non-prescribed medication in his possession and methamphetamine in his system. 
Flimban got into a heated argument with his ex-girlfriend hours before his death and sent text messages to friends that were indicative that he was in the process of killing himself, according to Amormino.

Battle insists Flimban was not suicidal prior to his death. 

Sources told OC Weekly that the victim's ex-girlfriend, along with a friend who lived in the neighborhood behind the park, were among the individuals who received the suicide text messages. Amormino, however, could not confirm this information. He also could not confirm whether or not Battle was interviewed during the investigation.
UPDATE, JULY 12 5:00 P.M.: Sheriff's spokesman Amormino confirmed no suicide note was found. Amormino says Flimban's body was found hanging from a pole on the playground, in the same position as Battle demonstrates in photo above.
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