Article by M. David
Yvette Smith was shot and killed by a Bastrop County Sheriff’s deputy last February. Now her family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Bastrop County, Texas and Sheriff Terry Pickering.
The lawsuit alleges that the shooting occurred because of police negligent hiring practices, implemented by former Deputy Daniel Willis.
As evidence for this contention, the suit alleges that Willis, 29, had been employed by Travis County. Back in 2012, an evaluation of Willis said unequivocally that Willis “needed more development in handling volatile situations” as well as simply using “common sense.”
It all happened back on February 16th of 2014, when deputies were called to a home just after midnight. The 911 operator told the police there were reports that two men had been fighting and a weapon was involved.
But that wasn’t true. Everyone in the house, including the woman who called 911, say that the dispatcher was told that “the fight was over money, not a gun.”
Officer Willis arrived at the house and Smith was standing near the front door. Willis says that he issued verbal commands for Smith to come out of the house. She complied with these demands, even though she had done nothing wrong and was not one of the suspects. As soon as she stepped out, as the officer had commanded, officer Willis opened fire, shooting her twice.
After the shooting, the Sheriff’s Department lied to the media and said Smith was armed when she came out. None of that was even remotely true and they later retracted the statement.
The lawsuit now says that Smith had absolutely nothing in her hands nor on her person “that could reasonably have resembled a weapon.”
The suit also says that Sheriff’s Department supervisors tampered with Willis’ records.
A BCSO investigation later confirmed this, saying that several supervisors altered Willis’ field training records. The goal was clearly to make the officer look better.
As a result, a lieutenant and a sergeant were demoted along with five other supervisors who faced disciplinary action because of these illegal alterations to the officer’s records.
“I honestly don’t believe there was any ill-will or malice. They knew the records were not up to date prior to the incident and were in the process of correcting them,” Sheriff Terry Pickering said.
Back in June, Willis was indicted by a grand jury for murder. The family’s suit seeks $5,000,000 in damages.
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