A widow is suing the Orange County sheriff and two deputies for “a culture of unlawful conduct” she says led to her husband’s fatal shooting in Efland last year.
Raleigh attorney James Hairston Jr. filed the lawsuit Aug. 21 in Orange County on behalf of Efland resident Amy Crockett, whose husband, Keo Crockett, was killed Feb. 18, 2017.
The lawsuit alleges the department’s policies and customs failed to properly supervise or control deputies that have been abusive, harassing or violated other constitutional rights while on the job, and to properly train deputies in how to do their job and protect citizen rights.
It also alleges that Sheriff Charles Blackwood established and promoted “a culture of reckless, lawless, and overzealous police conduct,” particularly during searches, seizures, investigations and arrests.
The deputies are accused of acting in a way that was “malicious and corrupt, and was perpetrated with a willful and wanton disregard of Mr. Crockett’s rights, as well as deliberate indifference to Mr. Crockett’s rights.”
Established law enforcement protocols could have prevented Crockett’s death, the lawsuit states.
The deputies also should have known that Amy Crockett — an “honest, law-abiding citizen” — would have been physically and emotionally distressed when Crockett was shot, it states. Their actions against her, it adds, “went beyond all bounds of decency and conduct that are tolerated by a civilized society.”
Crockett, 46, had been in an intimate relationship for several months with a woman in Mebane, the lawsuit states. They were texting on Feb. 18, when the woman told Crockett she wanted to end the relationship because she had reconciled with her boyfriend, it says.
The lawsuit does not name the woman.
Crockett then drove to the couple’s home in Mebane and entered through an unlocked door, it says. He confronted the couple and fought with the boyfriend, Doug Parker. Crockett had a handgun but did not fire it, the lawsuit states.
Previous reports have said witnesses told Mebane police that Crockett held a gun to a person’s head during the home invasion and attempted to fire it. The couple called 911 after Crockett left, reports have stated, and Mebane police asked the Orange County Sheriff’s Office to detain Crockett while they sought arrest warrants.
Orange County deputies Duke Ashley and Tyler Chelenza did not park in the home’s driveway or yard — or use blue lights or sirens — when they attempted to detain Crockett, the lawsuit says. Instead, they parked to the side of the Crocketts’ house and walked up.
Once there, the lawsuit says, they unplugged the outdoor lighting, plunging the porch into darkness. They did not knock or announce who they were, it says.
Crockett was watching television with his wife, Amy Crockett, inside the home when they heard what they thought was “an intruder attempting to break in the residence through a window” and saw the lights were off, the lawsuit says.
Crockett got his gun and went to the front door, followed by Amy Crockett, it says. When he opened the door, deputies shot him, it says. The lawsuit adds that neither deputy issued commands to Crockett before firing a weapon.
According to previous reports and the lawsuit, Ashley fired and hit Crockett four times in the abdomen with an AR-15 rifle. Chelenza fired his handgun but did not hit Crockett, documents state. The lawsuit says both deputies were “in a prone shooting position” when they fired on Crockett.
Crockett kept his handgun at his side and never raised it at the deputies, it alleges.
Amy Crockett then ran to a bedroom and called 911 to report an intruder, it says. Deputies ordered her at gunpoint to put her hands up before pushing her onto the floor and handcuffing her, and a deputy then dragged her out the back door of the house, it says.
Her forceful removal from the home fractured Amy Crockett’s right leg, the lawsuit says, and put her in a boot for 10 weeks. An open wound on her leg also became infected because of the deputy’s actions, it says.
The lawsuit alleges the mental and emotional impact has kept Amy Crockett from returning to work. It says she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression and agoraphobia — a fear of being trapped or unable to get help if things go wrong.
The N.C. Bureau of Investigation investigated the shooting, which is standard procedure. A report released by the Orange County District Attorney’s Office in July 2017 found that Ashley acted lawfully in killing Crockett because of a reasonable fear for his life.
The deputies had been told that Crockett should be considered armed and dangerous, the report said, and thought they might be fired on from inside the house.
The report did not address tactics the deputies used or whether they followed correct law enforcement procedures or Sheriff’s Office directives. Orange County deputies did not have body-worn cameras at the time, and there is no audio or video of what happened.
A lawsuit tells one version of events in a dispute. A court date has not been scheduled.