Hoping for a fresh start, Laquilla Vaughn moved to Atlanta from Dallas in April with her two children after her mother died from lung cancer.
Roughly four months later, Vaughn was shot in the face while sleeping at her Decatur apartment complex. The shooting led to roughly $100,000 in medical expenses and an eviction notice from the complex, claiming Vaughn breached her lease and was ultimately at fault for the shooting.
Now, Vaughn is suing the apartment complex, alleging it created a violent environment and neglected to provide adequate security preventing the gunfire and fatal shootings that occurred on the property within the past year.
According to the lawsuit filed Thursday, Vaughn was asleep on her couch in her apartment at The Life at Peppertree Circle on Aug. 12 when she was awakened by a loud popping sound coming from outside.
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Vaughn stood and immediately felt pain and a warm liquid and gravel-like substance in her mouth, according to the lawsuit. She then started spitting up blood and teeth.
When she realized she was shot, Vaughn darted to her children’s room and moved them to the floor so no bullets would hit them and called 911, according to the lawsuit. Convinced she was going to die, Vaughn ran out of the home for help. A neighbor spotted her and called 911.
Paramedics arrived and took Vaughn to Atlanta Medical Center, where she remained for four days, according to the lawsuit. She suffered an infection in her cheek, and portions of her gums and teeth had to be removed. Vaughn’s children stayed with a neighbor until family from Texas could arrive in Atlanta.
Saddled with $100,000 in medical bills, Vaughn missed weeks of work, lost 20 pounds and suffered “severe, long-lasting physical and emotional injuries,” her attorneys said in a news release.
A week after the shooting, Vaughn was given an eviction notice from her apartment complex, which claimed she violated her lease, specifically the “prohibited conduct” clause, and was responsible for the shooting, Vaughn’s attorney Drew Gilliland said in a phone interview with AJC.com.
The clause lists activities occupants may not engage in, including illegal activity such as threatening violence, possessing a weapon prohibited by law, and bringing hazardous materials into the apartment.
Gilliland said his client was told by management that they believed Vaughn was connected to the shooting, but was not given a reason why they believed she was or cited a specific line in the clause she violated.
“I’m not sure why they think she’s involved in the shooting,” he said, adding that his client doesn’t even own a gun.
Gilliland alleges the apartment complex is at fault since it failed to provide adequate security for the property, among other safety measures.
“She’s just been crippled with six-figure debt because of their negligence,” he said of his client’s legal and medical woes.
An eviction notice dated Aug. 17 gave Vaughn a month to find a new apartment, but Gilliland said that process is delayed after the former property manager, identified in the lawsuit as Janay Danielle Scott, published Vaughn’s alleged violation to other apartment complexes, preventing her from becoming a tenant elsewhere.
There has been some relief for Vaughn: A judge granted her an extension of her lease to give her time to look for a new apartment, Gilliland said.
While Vaughn remains at the apartment complex, Gilliland said her boyfriend drove from Dallas to provide support. But Vaughn and her children are still reeling from the shooting.
“They saw their mom basically bleed (on the street) the night she was shot,” Gilliland said. “She doesn’t let them go anywhere except school and back. Now they’re afraid to sit by windows and sit in the living room.”
Scott and the Olive Tree Property Management are also named in the suit.
Vaughn is seeking a trial and punitive damages.
This isn’t the apartment complex’s first brush with violent crime this year.
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On Memorial Day, Trevon Richardson, an 18-year-old high school football standout, was found dead in the apartment complex parking lot, just days after he graduated.
Richardson had plans to attend Valdosta State University, where he planned on majoring in business. He was one of four teens killed in a deadly start to summer break.
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Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com