Two years after Holli Gooch was shot and killed by police in her Cartersville home after allegedly wielded a hammer, her family has filed a federal lawsuit asking a jury to determine damages at trial.
Gooch was shot when a group of Bartow County Sheriff's Office deputies and a Cartersville Police Department officer entered her home in an attempt to arrest armed robbery suspect Jeremy Starr Prather.
The lawsuit, filed by Gooch's parents on behalf of her estate and two children, ages 2 and 10, claims police entered the home in violation of the Fourth Amendment.
Police, who said Prather had been seen at Gooch's house at 3 Lee St. earlier on Dec. 16, 2010, arrived about 6:30 p.m. and asked Gooch if they could come in, according to the action filed Nov. 6 in U.S. District Court in Rome. Gooch's parents say she locked her door, denying the police entry into her home because they did not have a warrant.
However, one of the deputies kicked in Gooch's door and police "rushed into her home with guns drawn—including an AR-15 machine gun...," according to the lawsuit.
"When she saw the officers break down her door and charge into her house with
guns drawn, Holli panicked and ran into the kitchen, where she was shot several times and killed by [two deputies] after she allegedly picked up a hammer and wielded it as a weapon," the suit continues.
Sheriff Clark Millsap after the shooting told The Daily Tribune News that Prather had ran out the back door, and Gooch began attacking a deputy with the hammer, injured an officer's hand and refused to stop her attack.
"They did what they had to do. It's very unfortunate, it's a tragedy really," Millsap said, according to the newspaper. "She had ability, opportunity and jeopardy....The officers didn't have a choice."
But the officers should have known they had no legal right to enter Gooch's home and an unlawful, forced intrusion and illegal entry could have caused someone to be shot, "especially someone with a history of mental illness like Holli Gooch," according to the lawsuit.
Less than two months after Gooch's death, Millsap said his jailers then patrolmen would employ Tasers, but not due to three fatal police shootings in 2010. The main reason, he said, was the closure of the state-run mental health hospital in Rome, Northwest Georgia Regional.
Prather and another man were arrested following Gooch's death and a manhunt. Prather is serving a 20-year prison sentence for the Banana Boat armed robbery, which happened earlier Dec. 16, 2010, same day Gooch was shot and killed.
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