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Estate of woman shot dead by Greenwood police sends tort claim notice to city

Monica Vaught fatally shot by officers in March during encounter in PD parking lot
Posted at 2:58 PM, Aug 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-15 14:58:06-04

GREENWOOD — Attorneys representing the estate of a woman shot to death by Greenwood police in March have filed a tort claim notice against the City of Greenwood, alleging officers wrongfully caused her death.

The claim, forwarded July 13 to the city, claims Greenwood officers "used excessive force, failed to follow department policy, and ignored widely accepted law enforcement standards" when they fatally shot Monica Vaught, 49 in the Greenwood Police Department parking lot, according to a statement from Brian Lowe of Greenwood law firm Deenik Lowe, LLC.

The statement further claims officers violated her constitutional rights when they shot her 12 times — seven of which were from behind, according to the statement.

Attorneys with Deenik Lowe, LLC and Boren, Oliver & Coffey, LLP, based in Martinsville, came to their conclusion after reviewin raw footage of Vaught's encounter with police, as well as photographs, an autopsy report and other documents, according to the statement.

"The estate will continue to seek justice for Monica Vaught," the statement says.

Vaught was shot by police March 29 at Greenwood police headquarters, 186 Surina Way.

Police have said Vaught got into a lengthy exchange with police before driving her car toward an officer, prompting officers to shoot her. Police have also said Vaught had methamphetamine in her system at the time of her death.

Officers originally began chasing Vaught after someone reported a possibly intoxicated driver around 11:15 p.m. the night of the shooting near Madison Avenue and County Line Road, Chief James Ison previously said.

In May, Greenwood police released an edited video summary of the encounter.

WRTV has previously submitted a public records request for all video, including footage from body-worn cameras, security cameras at the police department and in-car cameras if the cars were equipped with them.

Separate investigations conducted by the Greenwood Police Department's internal investigation division and the Johnson County Prosecutor's office found, that "the actions of all officers involved were determined to be lawful," Ison previously said.

The Police Department's conduct review board also reviewed the incident and found that one of the officers involved did not turn his body camera on until several minutes after he arrived at the scene.

Another officer was found to have "jeopardized his own safety" by standing in the potential path of a moving vehicle, Ison previously said, adding he was required to undergo steps for re-training.

The officers were previously identified as Sgt. Brandon Cox and Officers Elijah Allan, Ben Louzon and Zane Hennig.

Johnson County Prosecuting Attorney Joe Villanueva has previously shared the following statement:

"I can confirm that I did receive a large amount of materials related to this incident from GPD, which included document(s) and well as video evidence. I reviewed all those things to make a determination as to whether each of the four officers involved was legally justified in firing his duty weapon under the doctrine of self-defense/defense of another as outlined in Indiana law. The acts of each of the four officers in question did qualify under either self-defense or defense of another. As such no criminal charges will be pursued against any of the officers for the events of that evening."

Vaught's family says she was struggling with her mental health and substance use disorder for years before she died.

Vaught's children wrote the following in her obituary:

"We live in a cruel world where mental health issues are stigmatized and swept under the rug. This obituary we pray, instills hope in someone, if only one person. Hope that more people will accept help and be open about their demons. It is to tell people that there is nothing to be ashamed of. There are people who love you with every ounce of their being and want nothing more than for you to just be happy. To lose our mother this way is gut wrenching and unfathomable."

The statement from attorneys for Vaught's estate adds that she was a former Greenwood High School valedictorian and an Indiana University salutatorian.

WRTV has reached out to the City of Greenwood's Legal Department and received an email from Greenwood City Attorney Shawna Koons stating, "I respectfully inform you that the City of Greenwood does not comment on threatened litigation."

WRTV Digital Producer Andrew Smith, Real-Time Editor James Howell and Reporter Rachael Wilkerson contributed to this report.