Family identifies man killed by sheriff's deputy

Published: Mar. 19, 2015 at 12:51 PM CDT|Updated: Mar. 19, 2015 at 10:27 PM CDT
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LAWRENCE COUNTY, AL (WAFF) - One man is dead after he was shot by a Lawrence County sheriff's deputy.

Officials say they were responding to a domestic call just before 8 a.m. in the 1000 block of County Road 249, when they encountered a man with an "edged weapon."

A deputy shot the man, killing him.

Lawrence County Sheriff Gene Mitchell said deputies told the man to put the weapon down, which he refused to do. They say he then charged the deputies, at which point they shot and killed him.

Family members identified the man as Shane Watkins, and said he lived at the home. They said they called 911 after Watkins became agitated when he tried to take car keys to drive somewhere and another family member questioned whether he should leave.

They said Watkins had a box cutter when he was killed.

His mother, Darlene Watkins, said she watched deputies pull their weapons. She said she tried to tell them her son wasn't a threat to them, then soon afterward heard four shots.

"I told them, stop shooting my son; don't kill my son," Darlene said. "I said, 'How come you shot my son four times?' ... He said 'He was trying to attack me; he threatened me.'"

Family members said Watkins had a history of mental illness. They said they tried to check him into a hospital for mental reasons a few days ago, but they say the hospital refused to admit him because they didn't believe he was a threat.

"It wasn't right," said Watkins' niece, Shawna Brown. "He needed help and nobody would give him help, and it ended up with him dying."

No one else was injured.

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The deputy involved in the incident has worked for the department for "awhile," according to Mitchell.

"I would like to be on the scene," Mitchell said Thursday, "but I'm not because I don't want to get out there to try to encourage or discourage the investigation. It needs to take its own course."

Some departments have a policy whereby an officer or deputy involved in a shooting is placed on paid leave pending the results of the investigation.

However, Sheriff Mitchell said they don't have such a policy, and the deputy will remain on the job and will work out of the sheriff's office as the investigation continues.

At least one of the deputies was wearing a body camera; it is unclear if that camera captured the fatal shooting.

The sheriff added that his department will cooperate fully with state officials during their investigation.

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