A former Texas police deputy who shot and killed an unarmed woman without warning immediately after she opened the front door of a friend's house was found not guilty Thursday, The Guardian reports.
Daniel Willis was acquitted of murder in a Bastrop County, Texas, District Court by visiting District Judge Albert McCaig.
During the incident, which took place Feb. 16. 2014, Yvette Smith, who was apparently trying to defuse an argument between two men that involved a gun, called 911. When Bastrop County police arrived at the house in the early morning, at least one of the men was already in the front yard and the worst of the argument seemed to be over.
Willis, The Guardian notes, saw Smith and told her to come outside. When she opened the door, Willis shouted "police" before firing his gun within three seconds of his declaration. The 47-year-old died in the hospital after sustaining two gunshot wounds. Willis used his personal AR-15 semi-automatic rifle in the shooting.
Before announcing his ruling, McCaig described Smith as "a good person, a kind person and a gentle person trying to do the right thing," laying some of the blame at the feet of the two arguing men.
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He then asked Willis to stand before quoting part of a 1910 speech by Theodore Roosevelt: "It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds."
The judge delivered his verdict shortly afterward, at which point a camera in the courtroom showed members of Smith's family reduced to tears. Two of his relatives left the courtroom. One man yelled, "Bulls—t, that's bulls—t," before he was escorted out.
McCaig, who, The Guardian notes, usually works in Waller County, Texas, helped choose the grand jurors who looked into the death of Sandra Bland.
Willis' case has raised broad questions about police accountability, as well as more focused questions about the recruiting standards and conduct of local law enforcement.
As The Guardian notes, the sheriff's office initially falsely claimed that Smith had a gun and did not listen to orders: "After the subjects disregarded all commands to come out, a woman came to the doorway of the residence displaying a firearm. The woman disregarded the deputy's commands, which resulted in shots being fired by the Bastrop County Deputy and the woman being shot," the initial statement read.
Willis was fired after being charged with murder in the shooting. However, his last trial in September 2015 ended in a hung jury, with a deadlock at 8-4 in favor of a guilty verdict. Willis then agreed to waive his right to a jury for the retrial.
In 2015, Bastrop County settled a civil lawsuit with Smith's family for $1.2 million.
Read more at The Guardian.