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Evans v. United States

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee

March 31, 2017

SUZAN EVANS, Individually, and as Wife and Next of kin of SCOTT EVANS, deceased, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, and the FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

         Plaintiff Suzan Evans brings this civil action pursuant to the Federal Torts Claims Act (FTCA) for the wrongful death of her husband Scott Evans during the execution of search and arrest warrants by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

         I. Statement of Facts

         After an investigation into distribution of child pornography, a criminal complaint, arrest, and search warrants were issued for Scott Evans on March 4, 2013. Special Agent (SA) Bianca Pearson worked on a plan to arrest Evans at his residence at 2332 Stapleton Road in New Market, Tennessee. SA Pearson was concerned about recent cases involving child pornography suspects who shot themselves or fired at officers and wanted to ensure enough agents were on hand to control the area surrounding the residence when the arrest warrant was executed. SA Pearson and SA Gregory Smith led a pre-briefing on March 5, 2013, for agents participating in the arrest. SA Pearson reviewed the FBI's deadly force policy, and advised agents that, while Evans had no criminal history, he had a concealed weapon permit and likely would have weapons at the residence. She also explained that Evans' 15-year old and 7-year old daughters could be home during the arrest.

         A second briefing occurred at a market near the Evans home early on March 6, 2013. Local law enforcement officers supporting the FBI operation were present. SA Pearson again covered the FBI's deadly force policy and reiterated that the Evans children likely would be home. Following the briefing, the team set out to execute the arrest and search warrants.

         The arrest team traveled to the Evans' residence in a caravan of vehicles, arriving after 7:00 a.m. Members of the arrest team wore clothing identifying them as law enforcement. Officers in marked police vehicles turned on their blue lights when approaching the residence, which was a trailer. FBI team members walked to the Evans' trailer with weapons drawn, and lined up at the front door.

         SA Casey Helm announced the FBI's presence by knocking and shouting words to the effect of “FBI! Search Warrant! Come to the door!” After several seconds without a response, SA Jeffrey Blanton struck the door with a breaching tool, forcing it open a few inches. SA Smith then kicked the door open.

         SA Smith and SA Helm entered first and encountered Suzan Evans and her daughters. SA Smith ordered Mrs. Evans to get down on the floor and she complied. SA Lane Rushing and SA Paul Scrown entered next and headed toward a bedroom on the left. SA Letitia Jones told Mrs. Evans that the FBI had a warrant, asked where Mr. Evans was, and asked if there were guns in the house. Mrs. Evans told her there was a gun in the bedroom where agents had gone. SA Jones tried to get the two girls down as low to the floor as possible. SA Jones stated there was a TV on and that it was loud in the house. SA Pearson was in the family room with Mrs. Evans and the children. She recalled hearing a great deal of shouting inside the house.

         SA Rushing entered the bedroom first, followed by SA Scrown. SA Rushing observed Mr. Evans, who was nude, move quickly from a bathroom into the bedroom, and move up onto the bed. SA Rushing shouted “FBI! FBI!” and Evans raised his right hand, which held a gun inside a holster. Mr. Evans pointed the gun at his head and lowered himself down from the bed and appeared to be on his knees. SA Rushing yelled “FBI, get your hands up!” and “Drop the gun!” Evans did not comply with the agent's orders to drop the gun. At one point Evans told SA Rushing, “Get out of my face.” SA Rushing thought Evans might commit suicide or threaten the agents, and he yelled “Don't do this!”

         SAs Bishop, Helm, and Smith rushed to the bedroom and observed Evans crouching and pointing the holstered gun at his head while SAs Rushing and Scrown told him to drop the gun. SA Bishop considered lunging over the bed and attempting to subdue Evans. He stepped closer to the bed and Evans turned to face him, and SA Bishop moved back. Evans turned back to SAs Rushing and Scrown, raising his hand. SAs Rushing and Scrown repeatedly commanded Evans to drop the gun and comply with the arrest. SA Bishop considered firing his weapon at that point but he did not have a good angle to shoot Evans. SA Smith made a motion across the bed intending to tackle Evans, but Evans looked in his direction, and SA Smith abandoned the idea as too risky because Evans was holding a gun. He moved back, and Evans returned his attention to SAs Scrown and Rushing.

         SA Rushing saw a flash or reflection of light coming from the holster. SA Smith saw the gun emerge from the holster and noted it was a large caliber revolver. SAs Helm, Bishop, and Rushing saw Evans move his left hand in a manner consistent with unholstering the gun. SA Scrown stated he saw a glint of metal as Evans removed the gun from its holster using his left hand and SA Scrown fired his rifle three times, striking Evans in the side of his torso.

         Evans fell forward. None of the agents could see his hands or the gun. Agents approached and saw that Evans held his handgun, now out of its holster. SA Scrown stepped on Evans' hand and the gun; SA Bishop grabbed the gun and moved it away from Evans. SAs Bishop and Blanton handcuffed Evans and SA Smith called for officers stationed outside to call an ambulance. Evans died at the scene.

         Mrs. Evans states she heard a loud banging on the front door. She looked through the peephole while unlocking the deadbolt. She saw people dressed in black with no markings on their clothes. Agents “smashed” in her door, breaking her nose, and knocking her back about five feet. None of the agents identified themselves or showed her a warrant. She was thrown face-down on the floor and handcuffed. She heard no shouting, talking, commands, or anything from the bedroom until she heard the gunshots. Evans' two daughters state they did not hear anyone say or shout anything in the bedroom prior to hearing the gunshots.

         Agents later obtained a second search warrant authorizing a search of the trailer for evidence relating to the shooting. The search recovered Evans' Ruger handgun which was cocked and loaded. Additional weapons were also recovered from the residence.

         On March 14, 2013, District Attorney General James Dunn of the Fourth Judicial District of Tennessee declined prosecution, stating SA Scrown's actions were justified. On April 9, 2013, the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division notified the FBI and the United States Attorney's Office there was no evidence to support an ...


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