Mother shot dead on her doorstep by a police officer
from various sources – June 2017
contributions by – Taibah Arif
News updates listed at the foot of this item
Yvette Smith, a 47 year-old mother of three, was shot dead in her home on 16 February 2014. The unarmed woman was shot without warning immediately after she opened the front door of a friend’s house to the attending officers. She was seemingly trying to act as a peacemaker during a dispute between two men that involved a gun. She called 911 about half an hour after midnight.
When Bastrop County police arrived at the house, at least one of the men was in the front yard and the worst of the disturbance had seemed to be over.
Key facts to this case are that;
- Yvette had called 911 on the night in question just after midnight
- Her call was in relation to a dispute
- The dispute was between a father and son
- The officer who shot Yvette was Daniel Willis
- The dispute was settled before the arrival of the officer
- She was shot twice with a high powered 223 calibre rifle
Just after Midnight the Bastrop county Sheriff’s office were contacted by Yvette and two sheriff deputies were dispatched to the domestic disturbance at the home of Mr Willie Thomas. Deputies claimed in their official incident report that they arrived at the home and saw one person (Willie Thomas) already outside. They issued verbal commands for the other occupants to exit the property. As Yvette opened the door deputy Willis shouted “police!” then fired within about three seconds. She died in the hospital after being shot twice by the deputy using his personal AR-15 semi-automatic rifle.
The 911 caller had alleged that two men; a father and son were in dispute regarding finances and felt that the matter was getting out of hand. Records of the call stated that the caller had raised concerns about the presence of a gun.
It was reported that while Mr Thomas stood beside the patrol cars he overheard a dispatcher say there was a potential gun within his home. He attempted to inform the officer about the false information.
Officers made transparent attempts to justify the shooting by alleging that Yvette had threatened them with a gun, even though no evidence corroborates that story, and no one who knew her could imagine her holding a gun to anyone. Witnesses say the argument between father and son was about money, not a gun. The police statement however, had claimed that Yvette was carrying a firearm and she was described as disregarding the deputy’s commands which led to her being shot.
Yvette’s son, Anthony Bell, was heartbroken when he heard of his mother’s death 6 hours after the shooting. He said that she had been a wonderful mother and never run afoul of the law. “I answered the door and there were two investigators there, and they said your mom’s been involved in an accident,” Bell said. “I thought a car wreck and he said, no, she was shot by an officer and she died. I just lost it then.”
The incident shook the whole community and everybody felt threatened and unsafe. Joe Martinez, another witness. “It just hurts, because now you can’t trust an officer here.”
A few weeks after the shooting, an investigation by BCSO revealed that several supervisors had modified Willis’ field training records after the shooting in an effort to make sure the records were completed accurately. A lieutenant and a sergeant were demoted to patrol deputy and five additional supervisors also faced disciplinary action because of the record changes.
Bastrop County is just southeast of Austin, between that city and LaGrange, Texas, the town made famous by ZZ Top and the Chicken Ranch. The population of the entire county is under 75,000, and it is predominately a rural area with a National Guard training facility in the middle of the county. Yvette lived on what used to be part of Camp Swift on Zimmerman Road. It is a very conservative area, where the population overwhelmingly supports law enforcement and criminal justice.
In 2014 Yvette‘s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Bastrop County and Sheriff Terry Pickering. The suit claimed her death was caused by the negligent hiring of former Deputy Daniel Willis. According to the lawsuit, before working for Bastrop County Sheriff’s Office, Willis was employed by Travis County. A Travis County 2012 evaluation of Willis stated that Willis needed more development in handling explosive situations and in the utilization of common sense.
The civil case for wrongful death was eventually settled by Bastrop County for $1.22 million.
In April 2016 Daniel Willis, a former Texas police deputy, was found not guilty of murder. The case raised broad issues about police accountability and questions about police recruiting standards and the general conduct of the sheriff’s department.
Innocent mother shot dead answering door for police
24 February 2014
Yvette Smith Shooting – First Police Statement
24 February 2014