CAMDEN COUNTY, Fla. — A Georgia district attorney announced Wednesday that he will not pursue criminal charges against the deputies involved in the narcotics search warrant in Woodbine last year that resulted in the death of Latoya James.
The Camden County Sheriff’s Office said it was serving a drug-related search warrant in the early morning hours of May 4, 2021, when gunfire was exchanged between two deputies and Varshawn Brown—the resident of the home and James’ cousin.
James, 37, was shot and killed. Brown was also struck and taken to hospital.
Following the incident, investigators released a portion of the body camera video from the deadly incident. Deputies could be heard announcing their presence, “Sheriff’s office; search warrant; come to the door!” and entering the home when their calls went answered.
Seconds later they are heard shouting, “Get on the ground! Get on the ground!”
The GBI identified the deputies involved as Downy Casey and Michael Blaquiere.
Family members raised several red flags when the video was released in May last year.
Pastor Mack Knight said he was concerned about the video being partially blocked by the officer’s shield, and what couldn’t be seen. He also asked why officers were serving the drug warrant at about 4:45 in the morning.
“I need answers to those types of questions. So what I would like to see moving forward is more transparency,” Knight, who is Brown’s cousin, told Action News Jax’s Robert Grant last year.
Action News Jax’s Law and Safety Expert Dale Carson said it’s normal to serve a warrant in the early morning hours, when the residents of the home are asleep
District Attorney Keith Higgins said in a statement that he met privately with a handful of community leaders and members of James’ family to announce his decision. “While any loss of life is always tragic, the officers’ use of force in this instance was justified to protect their lives.”
The DA said it intends to pursue criminal charges against Brown.
He faces three counts of aggravated assault against a peace officer, two counts of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, and possession of a firearm by a felon.
The body camera video can be viewed here. *Warning the video contains profanity and graphic content*
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