Why did East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s deputies kill Deaughn Willis?

On January 8, 2022, Deaughn Willis was killed by an East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s deputy.

That day, the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office was executing a supposed arrest warrant for Deaughn’s twin brother and roommate, Keaughn, on suspected kidnapping charges. The night of the search, police initially claimed that law enforcement had knocked on the door and identified themselves. Deaughn, they said, answered the door and pointed a gun through the opening.

However, through now-recovered surveillance footage of the fateful night, one can clearly observe EBRSO law enforcement approach the home – now known to be the George O’Neal Road residential address of the Willis brothers – and deliver bang after bang on their door while never explicitly identifying themselves as law enforcement. They also never gave a declarative statement regarding their warrant or intentions before breaking open the door to the residence.

Those officers, without any known warrant to enter the residence, banged scarily on a residential door and never announced themselves.

For context, East Baton Rouge Parish is experiencing a historic peak in violent crimes – and Black men have been particular victims of that heightened crime spree. Imagine, then, living in a community with heightened crime only to hear threatening, non-identified banging at your door – which is precisely the circumstance that befell Deaughn Willis.

On January 8, 2022, Deaughn Willis woke up to loud bangs on his front door – a door behind which his mother was sick and other young children were playing.

Upon hearing the violent knocks, the Willis family rushed to gather the young children to safety while Deaughn approached the door – apprehensive because, of course, they felt they had to be these days. In fact, as Deaughn approached the door, his mother, Trinelle Willis, was speaking to a 911 operator, having called emergency services because she didn’t know who could possibly be banging on her door that morning, especially considering the epic crime wave their community had experienced.

When Deaughn Willis – who was described as “humble” by his friends and family & worked multiple jobs – opened the front door of the apartment that morning, he was killed by an EBRSO deputy.

Officers said Deaughn had a gun – and while family members can neither confirm or deny that fact (because they were busy getting the small kids to safety, thinking a potentially deadly threat was at the door), it’s important to remember that they weren’t there for Deaughn.

Deaughn was merely cautiously approaching his family’s front door – there are no claims that Deaughn fired a weapon or lunged at law enforcement. Even in the EBRSO’s questionable initial report, aside from the verifiably false claim that Deaughn pointed his weapon at the deputies, no other claims of violence or threats are made. Deaughn answered the door of his family home like a reasonable person would in that situation. And he was killed for it.

Deaughn Willis was killed that day because law enforcement banged on his door that morning and never acknowledged themselves as law enforcement. That’s what happened. It doesn’t matter what his past is or what his brother was accused of – Deaughn Willis didn’t deserve to die that morning and he didn’t have to. But he did.

Those officers that day were looking for Deaughn’s twin brother, Keaughn, who was not home at the time, but who surrendered to officers after receiving a phone call that prompted him to check on his family. Keaughn, for his part, was unaware that a warrant had been issued for his arrest. But he surrendered immediately once called, tragically proving that one phone call could have prevented his brother’s death.

His mother, Mrs. Trinelle Willis, tried to give her son, Deaughn, medical aid that day, something she had done for so many others as a trained nurse throughout her life. It had to be torturous to be denied that ability as her entire family was removed from the apartment where her son lay dying from a gunshot wound from EBR sheriff’s deputies.

Worse, it’s predicted that at least 30 minutes would pass before Deaughn Willis would receive medical aid – medical aid Mrs. Willis was denied giving her son as he took his last breaths on earth.

Oh, and for good measure, after her son was killed, Mrs. Willis was placed in a police car and handcuffed in the vehicle where they later left the gun that killed her son. Not only was she was made to leave her family’s apartment while her son bled out, she was being held in custody with the murder weapon.

Deaughn Willis, who was killed by an EBRSO deputy on January 8th, had just started a new job on January 7th.  The deputy who shot and killed him  remains on active duty.

As of March 6, 2022, no one from the Sheriff’s Office has met with the Willis family. And yet, the Willis family has a simple ask: transparency.

EBRSO has bodycam footage and a recorded 911 call; we simply call on them to do the right thing – the easy thing: release the tapes.

About Author /

Eugene Collins is the Current Branch President for The Baton Rouge Branch of the NAACP. He has a Degree in Social Sciences with a specialization in implementing Social Strategies from Upper Iowa University. Eugene co-hosts The NAACP Presidents Radio Program on WTQT 106.1 FM Baton Rouge. Eugene is also a dedicated Healthcare Professional with over 17Yrs of experience in implementing Public Health Interventions. Eugene is a published author and a proud member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Incorporated. You can follow Eugene on IG @eugene_collins12 and Facebook @Eugene Weatherspoon Collins.

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