BRUNSWICK, Ga. – Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney Keith Higgins announced Wednesday that law enforcement officers involved in an incident that resulted in the death of Latoya James during a drug raid last year will not be charged with a crime.
James was shot and killed while Camden County deputies were serving a search warrant before dawn in May 2021 on U.S. 17 near Woodbine, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI).
It’s still unclear who fired the fatal shot.
GBI said law enforcement knocked and announced themselves before making entry into the residence, and once they were inside, there was an exchange of gunfire between those in the home and law enforcement.
According to the GBI, those inside were identified as 37-year-old James, who was shot and died at the scene, and 46-year-old VarShaun Brown, who was injured and hospitalized at UF Health in Jacksonville. The family said the two were cousins and it was Brown’s home.
According to family members who spoke with News4JAX, Brown said the deputies didn’t identify themselves before using a battering ram to open the door so he fired thinking it was a robber.
Body camera footage released of the incident shows approximately 3-minutes and 16-seconds of a total 3-hours and 43 minutes worth of footage from a deputy’s camera.
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.
In the footage that was released, a series of gunshots are heard, however, the footage is dark and not much is visible as the deputy is holding a shield.
Deputies Downy Casey and Michael Blaquiere were the deputies involved.
The district attorney’s office said Higgins met privately with members of the family and with select community leaders on Wednesday to tell them his decision.
According to a news release from his office, Higgins expressed his condolences to the family of James.
“While any loss of life is always tragic, the officers’ use of force in this instance was justified to protect their lives,” Higgins said.
The state still plans to pursue criminal charges against Brown for his role.
The family announced last year they planned to sue Camden County and the Camden County Sheriff’s Office for $25 million for James’ death.
News4JAX has reached out to the lawyer representing the family to see if it is still pursuing that lawsuit.
Brown is charged with three counts of aggravated assault, possession of cocaine with intent to distribute and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. His bond is set at $575,000.