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Woman shot by police settles suit for $250K 

An innocent passenger who was shot by police after a vehicle chase involving a stolen U-Haul truck has settled a lawsuit against the Clay County Sheriff’s Office and its officers for $250,000, the plaintiff’s attorneys report. 

Stephen Agan and George Hyler of Hyler & Agan in Asheville report that their client, Kelly Campbell Walker, and an acquaintance of hers had borrowed the truck from a third person in order to transport more than 50 bags of moss they had gathered in the forest. Neither Walker nor her companion was aware that the truck had been due to be returned the previous day and had been reported as stolen. 

When police attempted a traffic stop, the driver, who’d failed to appear in court for a misdemeanor, fled in the vehicle, with Walker trapped as an unwilling passenger. The resulting chase saw the driver crash through a barrier and drive onto a peninsula along the shore of Chatuge Lake despite Walker’s demands to let her out. 

Walker’s lawsuit, filed in federal court, alleged that one of the sheriff’s deputies, Thomas Woodard, fired at the vehicle in two separate instances after establishing a roadblock. Although Woodward was attempting to damage the tire, shrapnel struck Walker’s leg. Agan said that at least 12 rounds were ultimately fired. 

“I think three pieces of the bullet remained there until the case was settled,” Agan said. “Part of the reason for settling was so she could get the funds to pay for surgery to have those removed.” 

Agan said the defense claimed that the truck—which had already struck a police cruiser—presented a danger to officers and nearby Department of Transportation workers, but Agan said that Walker had been hit during the second round of shots, at which time the truck was no longer driving towards the roadblock. 

“The federal case law in the Fourth Circuit is clear,” Agan said. “When you are using lethal force in the form of shooting at a vehicle with occupants inside, there must be imminent danger to a person at the time of the shooting, not some hypothetical area where someone could potentially get hurt in the future.” 

Agan said that the county’s chief deputy sheriff, Daniel Sherrill, also had his weapon out but did not fire at the fleeing truck. Sherrill was later dismissed as a defendant. 

“His statement at the deposition was that he didn’t think this was worth killing anybody over,” Agan said. 

Agan said that there was no threat at the time that justified using a deadly weapon. He indicated that the statement of one of the transportation workers on the scene emphasized the point. 

“His comment was that he thought it was all funny until they started shooting,” Agan said. 

The settlement was agreed to on Aug. 3. The county’s risk pool will pay the settlement. 

Sean Perrin of Womble Bond Dickinson represented Woodard, Clay County Sheriff Bobby Deese, and the insurer. Patrick Flanagan of Cranfill Sumner represented Sherrill. Neither returned a request for comment. 


Amount: $250,000 

Injuries alleged: Shrapnel from bullet embedded in lower left leg 

Case name: Kelly Campbell Walker v. Robert Layne Deese; RLI Insurance Company; Thomas Heath Woodard; Daniel Dean Sherrill, Jr. 

Court: U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina 

Case No.: 1-20-cv-0072 

Date of settlement: Aug. 3 

Most helpful experts: W. David Munday of Hickory (use of force), Sean Dennis of Cary (accident reconstruction), and Josh Wright of Asheville (ballistics) 

Insurance carriers: North Carolina Association of County Commissioners (NCACC) Liability and Property Risk Pool 

Attorneys for plaintiff: Stephen Agan and George Hyler of Hyler & Agan in Asheville 

Attorneys for defendants: Sean Perrin of Womble Bond Dickinson in Charlotte for Deese, RLI, and Woodard, and Patrick Flanagan of Cranfill Sumner in Raleigh for Sherrill 

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