CAMDEN COUNTY, Ga. — The family of Latoya James has filed a $25 million lawsuit against Camden County Sheriff Jim Proctor and other deputies involved in James’ death.
Attorneys joined the family Monday morning to announce next steps in their fight for justice and accountability.
“I got to hear her tell me ‘I love you mommy’ for the last time the night before they took her life,” Latoya’s mother Betty James said. “I can never hear that again.”
Deputies were serving a drug-related search warrant at Varshan Brown’s Woodbine home on May 4, 2021 just before 5 a.m. Shots were exchanged between deputies and Brown within seconds of the door being knocked down. Brown’s cousin, 37-year-old Latoya James, was killed by gunfire.
Brown was wounded and later charged.
The deputy wearing the body camera was carrying a shield that obstructed much of the video. It doesn’t show who opened fire, and neither James nor Brown can be seen in the three-minute clip.
“It was under the dark of night,” Attorney Reginald Greene said. “It was unexpected. It was unlawful. It was unjustified. It was tragic.”
District Attorney Keith Higgins concluded that the deputies involved wouldn’t face charges, justifying the use of deadly force.
“We know the fact in this case that the bullet that struck Latoya James did not come from her cousin,” Attorney Bakari Sellers said. “Those bullets came from those sheriff’s deputies.’”
The lawsuit was filed Sunday night in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida in the Brunswick division.
Attorneys said Brown was not given an adequate amount of time to answer the door.
“I will point you directly to the statute that gives clear direction that’s been codified by the General Assembly in Atlanta, Georgia, that you have a knock and announce warrant,” Attorney Harry Daniels said. “You must give the person an opportunity to come to the door. You must at least get an opportunity for them to respond to the non-mission. The video is very clear and that didn’t happen.”
They’re asking for accountability.
“If we don’t stand for Latoya James, we may be up there standing for you next,” Attorney Daniels said.
Here are the four points attorneys have outlined in the lawsuit.
“The entry was unlawful. The force was excessive. There was a deliberate indifference to the consequences of their actions. Latoya’s death was wrongful,” Greene said.
Attorneys of the family have called on the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate Latoya’s killing.
“I just miss her so much,” Betty said. “We deserve justice.”
Lawyers for James’ family say there are striking parallels between this case and the 2020 raid by police officers in Louisville, Kentucky, that left Breonna Taylor dead.
“You can call her. She will talk to you. She will make you laugh. She will cry with you. She was very outspoken, very outgoing, very determined. She fought for everything and was never dependent on anybody but herself. When her child got here, that was everything to her,” Latoya’s sister, Latonya, said.
Action News Jax has reached out to the Camden County Sheriff’s Office for comment.
Brown has pleaded not guilty to the charges. He remains jailed in Camden County.
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