WOODBINE, Ga. – Days after a Georgia woman was shot and killed while deputies served a search warrant, authorities have released body camera footage of the incident.
The video clip, which is a little longer than three minutes, captures the moments the Camden County Sheriff’s Office raided a Woodbine home in the predawn hours Tuesday morning. It’s a fraction of the nearly four hours’ worth of footage recorded on the camera.
Latoya James, 37, was shot and killed at the home, which belongs to her cousin, 46-year-old Varshaun Brown, who was wounded during the same raid.
Footage shows deputies approach the home and announce themselves before knocking on the door. “Sheriff’s Office, search warrant,” a deputy can be heard saying as authorities enter the home. Moments later, several rounds of gunfire ring out.
Based on the video alone, News4Jax Crime and Safety Expert Ken Jefferson, a former police officer with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, said it’s unclear exactly who opened fire first.
“They knocked and announced, said they had a search warrant, said which agency they were with, they went in,” Jefferson said. “And from there you can’t hardly see anything, you can only depend on the audio.”
Jefferson said given what the footage shows, he believes the deputies involved in the raid followed protocol. He said law enforcement officers must make split-second decisions in these situations.
“It actually does happen that fast simply because you don’t want to give a person an opportunity if they want to shoot at an officer or ambush an officer,” he said.
Later in the video, deputies can be heard saying, “Got one down. Two down. Hold it. Room front.”
At one point in the footage, the camera’s view is obscured by a deputy’s shield. News4Jax reached out to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation about why that specific piece of video was released and if other deputies had body cameras on during the raid.
Those questions went unanswered as of Friday afternoon.
A statement released by the GBI mentioned there was an “exchange of gunfire between” Brown and James and law enforcement. The agency’s statement doesn’t specify who fired first.
The video doesn’t add much clarity. At one point, a deputy can be heard saying, “he had a gun,” in an apparent reference to Brown. James is never mentioned in the video.
In response to questions raised by News4Jax, the GBI said it did not have any updates to report.
“The video can’t change,” Jefferson said. “You hear him say, ‘He had a gun.’ Unfortunately, (James is a) casualty of this search warrant. Search warrants in and of themselves are highly dangerous, they are high risk – it is dangerous for everyone involved.”
At this point, James’ loved ones want answers.
“We are demanding practices, policies and procedures to be changed when it comes to executing search warrants, so we don’t lose any more lives,” said Pastor Mack Knight, one of James’ relatives.
The family plans to hold a vigil for James on Friday evening.