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Investigative videos show parts of deputy-involved shooting, D.A. reviewing case

1 year 11 months 1 week ago Tuesday, March 15 2022 Mar 15, 2022 March 15, 2022 5:24 PM March 15, 2022 in News
Source: WBRZ

BATON ROUGE – State Police have completed an outside investigation into a deadly deputy-involved shooting earlier this year without recommending any charges.

The case is now before District Attorney Hillar Moore.

The shooting involved Deaughn Willis, 25, who was shot by an East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s deputy in January.  The deputy has returned to work.

Willis’ family have questioned the case, concerned investigators overlooked the actions of officers from two departments on scene the night Willis was shot.

Willis was shot as Baton Rouge Police and the deputy were at an apartment complex on George O’Neal looking for Willis’ twin brother, Keaughn.  Keaughn Willis was wanted in connection with a kidnapping case where he was accused of sexually assaulting a woman after taking her from Baton Rouge to Alexandria.

At the time of the incident, authorities said Deaughn Willis answered a knock at the door and “brandished a firearm at responding law enforcement.”

Video from a doorbell camera across the hall captured the moment officers knocked but stopped recording as Willis answered the door.  It began recording again as the deputy fired a shot into the doorway, hitting Willis.

CLICK HERE to watch the doorbell video

The doorbell camera captured video and a loud knock from agents who offered no identification.  Family members have said if authorities had identified themselves, Willis may still be alive.

"Me, my husband and my other son thought it was an intruder," Trinelle Willis, Deaughn's mom said. "We hear very aggressive knocks on the door to the point where we are asking who is it. No one announced themselves over and over again."

Activists have also suggested law enforcement should have notified the occupants about who was at the door.

Sources with knowledge of the investigation have told WBRZ, the police officers and deputy on the scene described seeing Willis point a gun and described it in great detail when questioned separately immediately after the shooting.

Grainy video of a screen recording of body camera footage shows officers knocking at the door and then subsequent commotion as soon as the door is opened.  Officers are seen scurrying away from the door before a shot is fired into the door.  Sources with knowledge of the investigation explained officers saw the gun, noticed Willis positioning himself behind the door as if it were a shield.

CLICK HERE to watch the body camera video

Willis’ family have said they were confused by the chaos and have disputed authorities’ claims of a gun being involved.

"This narrative about him pointing a weapon, having a gun, being dangerous, just another thug so it's not a problem to shoot him down, that's over with," Willie Davis, Jr., Deaughn's grandfather, said in the aftermath of the shooting in January.

"I didn't see him point anything," Trinelle Willis, his mother, said in an earlier interview with WBRZ.

"With my eyes, I didn't seem him point anything. When I was in the hallway, I saw him go to the door and peep out. When he peeped out, [it] sounded like he said, 'oh that's the police.' He closed the door back and they shot through the door." 

Although, in recorded interviews with law enforcement in the hours after the shooting, Willis’ mother and her husband eventually acknowledged they hid a gun Willis was handling.

“I didn’t see him with a gun… I didn’t see him with a gun.  Period,” Trinelle Willis’ husband, Leonard Wilson, told investigators at first.  Later during questioning, investigators showed pictures of a gun hidden under clothes with blood.

Wilson offered to talk with his wife and later told investigators the gun was moved out of fear, “not knowing who shot into the residence,” investigators wrote in case files leaked to WBRZ.

Wilson said he and his wife moved the gun and hid it under clothing to keep it away from a child in the apartment.

“My wife came to his aid… she must have picked the gun up and put it in the back,” he told detectives.  Later, he said, “I seen the gun … with the long clip… under the counter,” and suggested he moved it.

CLICK HERE to watch part of the line of questioning with detectives

Detectives said the gun had been reported stolen from West Feliciana Parish.

In an interview last week, Trinelle Willis maintained there was no gun, although in recorded conversations with investigators she acknowledged the weapon.

"I did not see him with a gun," Willis told WBRZ last week. "I did not hide any weapons."

Activists focused on police procedures argue policies need to be changed.

The sheriff’s office said it can’t comment since the case has now been given to the district attorney but offered a statement this week: “The investigation was handled by the Louisiana State Police.  It is our understanding that the investigation has just recently been handed over to the District Attorney for review.”

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