Family of woman killed by deputies in SE Georgia suing county for $25M

Most of the body camera footage released by the GBI is obscured by a deputy's shield.
Caption
Most of the body camera footage released by the GBI is obscured by a deputy's shield.

Credit: GBI

The family of a South Georgia woman who was killed during a police raid in May intends to file a $25 million lawsuit against the local sheriff’s office and county government.

Attorneys for the family of 37-year-old Latoya James notified the Camden County government and Camden sheriff’s office of their intent to sue on July 2. A lawyer for the family, Bakari Sellers, provided a copy of the notification to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

James was shot and killed by sheriff’s deputies serving a no-knock warrant at her cousin’s home in Woodbine just before 5 a.m. on May 4, the AJC previously reported. James’ lawyers drew a direct comparison between her death and that of Breonna Taylor, the Louisville woman who was shot as police executed a no-knock warrant at her home. Her death sparked protests in 2020 and led to a national debate about no-knock warrants.

ExploreGBI: Woman killed, man injured in shootout with South Georgia deputies

According to the GBI’s initial investigation, there was an exchange of gunfire between the deputies executing the search warrant and the occupants of the home, which included James and her cousin, 46-year-old Varshawn Lamont Brown. Brown was wounded in the shooting and taken to the hospital. No deputies were injured.

It is not clear who fired first or how many shots were fired. The GBI has released about three minutes of body camera footage in the case, but James’ family has asked the agency to release more. Nearly four hours of footage related to the incident was captured, Sellers confirmed. In the video posted by the GBI, most of the body camera’s field of view is blocked by a deputy’s shield.

The GBI’s investigation into this incident remains open and ongoing.

The family’s case against the county and sheriff’s office is based on their belief that deputies did not follow Georgia’s laws around serving a no-knock warrant, Sellers confirmed. The case claims that deputies did not have a reasonable need to serve a forceful no-knock search warrant.

“She meant so much to this family. Now, I have a hole in my heart,” James’ mother, Betty Jean Murphy-James, said during a Thursday press conference outside of the Camden courthouse. “She had a beautiful heart. She really did. That was Latoya.”

At the conclusion of its investigation, the GBI will turn its findings over to the Brunswick Judicial Circuit’s District Attorney’s office for review, after which the DA will determine whether the case warrants criminal charges.

— Please return to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution for updates.