Daniel Willis, a Bastrop County, Texas, sheriff’s deputy called to settle a dispute, shot and killed Yvette Smith, a 47-year-old former housekeeper and mother of three, at her friend’s house. Smith dialed 911 after failing to resolve an argument between a father and his son.
On February 16, 2014, deputies from the sheriff’s office were called to the house to investigate a report of domestic violence between two men who lived there. When officers arrived, Yvette Smith opened the front door as requested and was shot in the head and abdomen almost immediately. Officers initially claimed Smith had a gun, but later changed their minds.
Surprisingly, the disagreement was settled before officials arrived. Willie Thomas, the house’s owner, was outside when police arrived and ordered all other residents to do the same. Yvette Smith was shot three seconds after opening the door, according to body camera footage from a deputy. With his personal AR -15 semi-automatic assault rifle, the sheriff’s deputy shot her twice. Officers claimed she threatened them with a gun, despite the fact that no weapons were discovered in the house. According to Sheriff’s deputy reports, Yvette Smith disobeyed officers and was carrying a firearm. Deputy Daniel Willis, who fatally shot Smith, was charged with murder after both Willie Thomas and body camera footage revealed otherwise.
Yvette’s relatives said she was a kind woman who never intentionally disrespected or taunted law enforcement officers. Bastrop County and the surrounding area were thought to be conservative and law-abiding. Daniel Willis, who worked in Bastrop County, had previously been turned down by other law enforcement agencies, including the Austin Police Department, where he failed the psychological exam. Furthermore, less than two weeks after the shooting, and while the investigation was still ongoing, Bastrop Sheriff Terry Pickering told the Austin American-Statesman that some of his staff had tampered with Willis’ training records in order to correct mistakes he had made during training.
Yvette Smith’s family sued Bastrop County and Sheriff Terry Pickering for wrongful death in 2014. According to the lawsuit, her death was caused by the negligent hiring of former Deputy Willis.
Officer Willis was charged with Yvette Smith’s murder, but the trial was ruled invalid because the jury could not reach a unanimous decision. On April 7, 2016, District Judge Albert McCaig acquitted Willis of all charges in a second trial. Yvette Smith’s family was eventually awarded $1.2 million.
Janelle Monáe’s 2021 song “Say Her Name,” about Black women killed by police, mentioned Yvette Smith among other victims. Smith’s children and identical twin sister survived her.