BASTROP COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — The family of Yvette Smith, a woman who was shot and killed by a Bastrop County Sheriff’s deputy in February, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Bastrop County and Sheriff Terry Pickering.
The suit claims Smith’s death was caused by the negligent hiring of former Deputy Daniel Willis. According to the lawsuit, before working for Bastrop County Sheriff’s Office, Willis, 29, was employed by Travis County. A Travis County 2012 evaluation of Willis stated that Willis needed more development in handling explosive situations and in the utilization of common sense.
On Feb. 16, deputies were called to a home on Zimmerman Avenue just after midnight for reports of two men fighting over a weapon. Witnesses who were inside the house at the time said the woman called 911 and told the dispatcher the fight was over money, not a gun.
When Willis arrived at the home, Smith was standing near the front doorway of the home. According to authorities, Willis issued verbal commands for Smith to come out of the home but when she stepped out he fired his weapon and shot her twice.
On the day of the shooting, the Sheriff’s Office said Smith was armed when she came out of the home but they later retracted that statement.
The suit says Smith had nothing on her “that could reasonably have resembled a weapon.”
The suit also alleges the County and Sheriff were negligent by allowing Sheriff’s Department supervisors to tamper with Willis’ records.
A few weeks after the shooting, an investigation by BCSO revealed that several supervisors had modified Willis’ field training records after the shooting in an effort to make sure the records were completed accurately. A lieutenant and a sergeant were demoted to patrol deputy and five additional supervisors also faced disciplinary action because of the record changes.
“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,” said Sheriff Terry Pickering.
In June, a grand jury indicted Willis for murder. Willis was also fired from the Bastrop County Sheriff’s Office.
The victim’s family is seeking $5,000,000 in damages.