CAMDEN COUNTY, Ga. – The family of a woman who was shot and killed as Camden County deputies were serving a drug-related search warrant at a home want answers.
A day after 37-year-old Latoya James died, her twin sister broke the news to her 7-year-old niece that the young girl’s mother is not coming home.
“They just keep telling her it was a shooting, and her mom was shot, but they haven’t told her who shot her and why. They were glued at the hip. Latoya really loved her daughter. Her daughter adored her mother,” said Mack Knight, a pastor and cousin to 46-year-old Varshaun Brown.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation said Camden County Sheriff’s Office deputies served the warrant at Brown’s home just before 5 a.m. Tuesday. According to the GBI, authorities announced themselves before making entry.
Upon entry, the GBI said, there was an exchange of gunfire between Brown, James and deputies. The GBI said James died, and that Brown was also shot and hospitalized for treatment.
“So our knowledge of it is, there was no identifying themselves, that is what Varshaun is saying, they did not identify,” Knight said. “They used a battering ram to open the door and just came on in, so he fired, thinking it was a robber coming in his house and shots were exchanged back.”
News4Jax crime and safety expert Ken Jefferson has decades of experience as an officer with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.
“When police go in on a warrant, they want to make sure the person inside know who they are immediately, so they will announce themselves,” Jefferson explained. “I don’t believe they knew there was another person inside, and that person unfortunately became a casualty of this warrant being served because they ended up firing on the person they were looking for.”
Jefferson said the deputies serving the warrant are the ones responsible for executing the work that needs to be done before serving it.
“There’s a lot that goes into, first of all, getting a search warrant, and then a lot goes into executing a search warrant. Whether it is a no knock or a knock and an announce, there’s a lot of work that goes into it,” Jefferson said. “Transparency is the number one priority, should be the number one priority for every law enforcement agency. There’s nothing to hide if you’re doing things the proper way.”
James’ family plans to hold a vigil Friday. News4Jax is waiting to learn of the details.
The family said Brown remains in the hospital. It said he has undergone two surgeries.