BASTROP, Texas (KXAN) — An ex-Bastrop County Sheriffs’ Office deputy who was indicted for murder in the 2014 shooting death of Yvette Smith is suing his former department and the Bastrop County District Attorney’s Office claiming his civil rights were violated.
The lawsuit claims a dispatcher failed to relay “vital information” to Deputy Daniel Willis, leading him to believe that he was responding to an incident involving a person with a loaded gun.
On April 7, 2016, a judge found deputy Willis not guilty in the murder of Smith, 47. Before the judge made his ruling he noted the difficulty of the situation that resulted in Smith’s death and the question of whether Willis acted within the “objectively reasonable” standard for lethal force.
Willis responded to a fight between two men on Feb. 16, 2014. When he arrived at the house, authorities say he shot Smith twice when she walked onto the porch. The Bastrop County Sheriff’s Office originally claimed Smith was armed, but later said she had no weapons on her. Four months later, Willis was charged with murder and fired from the force.
The lawsuit states the person who called 911 said the “gun had been put down” prior to Willis arriving there. While the 911 operator received that information and relayed it to the county dispatcher, the lawsuit contends the county dispatcher never relayed that information to Willis.
“[The county dispatcher] testified in both of Officer Willis’ trials, that she stopped reading information relayed to her by the 911 operator, in violation of Sheriff’s Office Policy,” the lawsuit states.
Willis’ attorney claims the ex-deputy’s civil rights were violated when he was prosecuted for acting in self-defense “even though Bastrop County knew a Bastrop County employee failed to perform her duties and deprived” him of “vital information.”
“Daniel Willis was not driving around looking for trouble. This is two men fighting with weapons in a violent encounter when 911 was called,” said his defense attorney Robert McCabe. “Had they not acted like fools, Daniel Willis would not have been called.”
Prior to being found not guilty by a judge, a previous trial ended in a mistrial when jurors failed to reach a unanimous decision. The jury was split 8-4 in favor of finding Willis guilty.
Smith’s family settled a lawsuit against Bastrop County for $1.2 million. The lawsuit claimed the county was negligent in hiring Willis.