Bastrop Co. to pay $1.2M to family of woman killed by deputy

Yvette Smith

BASTROP, Texas (KXAN) — The family of Yvette Smith, a woman who was shot and killed by a Bastrop County Sheriff’s deputy in February 2014, will receive $1.2 million from the county in a settlement reached April 16. Bastrop County Judge Paul Pape said, to his knowledge, this is the county’s largest financial settlement.

The suit claimed 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.

Daniel James Willis
Daniel James Willis

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 said Smith had nothing on her “that could reasonably have resembled a weapon.”

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.

In June 2014, a grand jury indicted Willis for murder. The deputy was also fired from the Bastrop County Sheriff’s Office. As part of the agreement, Pape said the civil lawsuit against Willis will be withdrawn.

“We pray and believe that this mutually acceptable settlement will allow all parties to move forward with their lives,” said Pape.

The family was initially seeking $5 million in damages.

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