Family of Georgia woman killed by deputies demands answers

The family of a Georgia woman killed by gunfire as sheriff’s deputies executed a search warrant questioned Wednesday the way officers carried out the operation.

Latoya James, 37, was fatally shot on May 4 after Camden County deputies with a drug-related search warrant forced entry into a home at 4:51 a.m. that day. A man inside the house, Varshawn Lamont Brown, also was shot and hospitalized for his injuries.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is investigating, as is customary for shootings by law enforcement officers in the state. Two days after the shooting, the agency released body camera video that showed deputies announcing themselves at the home’s darkened door, then immediately forcing their way inside.

Multiple gunshots are fired within seconds of the deputies entering the house. 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.

"This is the case of an unarmed Black woman being shot during a botched or a bogus search warrant," Malik Shabazz, an attorney for James’ family, told reporters Wednesday at a news conference in Woodbine near the Georgia-Florida line.

Shabazz and Reginald Greene, another attorney for the family, said the deputies failed to give the home’s occupants enough time to respond before coming through the door.

Greene said the GBI told him the deputy carrying the shield was the only officer with a body camera recording video during the execution of the warrant. They called for release of the rest of the video, which the GBI has said is nearly four hours long.

The attorneys likened James’ killing to that of Breonna Taylor, the Black woman killed by police in Louisville, Kentucky, during an early morning drug raid on March 13, 2020.

James’ mother, Betty Jean James, said her daughter didn’t deserve to die.

"They took my baby. They took her life and then they took her dignity," the weeping mother told reporters. "They took her from me. And I want to know why."

Georgia authorities haven’t said what prompted the search warrant.

Camden County jail records show that Brown, 46, had been jailed in March on a charge of driving under the influence of drugs and again in April on charges of drug possession and failure to yield to an emergency vehicle.

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