Man sues Shelby County over mother's death in deputy-involved shooting

SHELBY COUNTY, TN (WMC) - A man filed a $20 million wrongful death lawsuit after his mother was shot and killed by Shelby County Sheriff's deputies in 2017.

Nancy Jane Lewellyn, 59, called Shelby County Sheriff's Office dispatch on March 17, 2017, and said she was sick, had a gun, and was going to kill herself or "the next somebody I see."

Investigators said when they arrived at the house in Lakeland, Lewellyn pointed a gun at deputies. It was later discovered that the gun she had was a BB gun.

"Our folks are telling us that the BB gun looked an awful lot like a handgun," Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Spokesman Josh DeVine said. "It was presumably very easy for these deputies to think this was a more dangerous situation than a BB gun."

The wrongful death lawsuit disputes reports by deputies that Lewellyn pointed the gun at them. In fact, attorney Daniel Seward said Lewellyn was trying to surrender her BB gun--by placing it on the hood of her car--when the deputies opened fire.

Two of the three deputies who responded to the 911 call opened fire, striking Lewellyn with no less than eight bullets, four of which were in her back.

The lawsuit argues deputies did not have any reason to believe that Lewellyn had harmed anyone at the time they arrived, and that they knew she was suffering from some type of mental illness or mental crisis.

It also accuses deputies of not identifying themselves or giving Lewellyn commands to drop the weapon.

Seward said the deputies made no attempt to de-escalate the situation with crisis intervention. Instead, he said the deputies used deadly force immediately.

In February 2018, Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich announced the two deputies who killed Lewellyn would not face charges. They were both on leave during the investigation but have since return to work since they were not charged with any wrongdoing.

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