GPD releases new details on police-action shooting

Greenwood police released the names of the officers who were involved in the police-action shooting last week.

Four officers fired shots at Monica W. Vaught, 49, of Greenwood, following a police pursuit that ended at the Greenwood Police Department, 186 Surina Way.

Greenwood police today released the names of the four officers who shot at Vaught: Sgt. Brandon Cox, with more than six years of experience; Officers Elijah Allen, with three years of experience; Ben Louzon, with over one year of experience; and Officer Zane Hennig, with eight months of experience, according to a press release from Greenwood police. The officers are on paid leave pending investigation into the incident, said James Ison, Greenwood police chief.

At approximately 11:16 p.m. on March 29 Greenwood Police responded to a report of a drunk driver near Madison Avenue and County Line Road. A female driver, later identified as Vaught, was driving southbound in the northbound lane on Madison Avenue. When police located her about one mile south of the county line and attempted to make a traffic stop, she did not stop and a pursuit ensued, Ison said.

The chase wound around downtown Greenwood and Vaught eventually entered the parking lot at the police department from Washington Street and continued to make evasive maneuvers, Ison said.

In the parking lot Vaught continued driving erratically and at high rates of speed, striking several police cars that were parked in the lot. Officers attempted to box her car in, but she escaped by backing into and accelerating forward into the cars surrounding her, Ison said.

She then sped toward officers at a high rate of speed and officers opened fire. It is unknown if she was struck by the initial gun fire, as she continued to drive around the lot, Ison said.

Several times Vaught circled the parking lot and drove toward the officers. Finally, she stopped for a few moments at the north end of the parking lot, revved her engine and sped toward the officers at the opposite end of the lot, Ison said.

Officers opened fire again and brought the incident to an end, Ison said. Officers administered aid until emergency medical services personnel arrived and pronounced her dead, he said.

“A woman lost her life (who) is a mother, a daughter that the family no longer has,” Ison said. “The four officers involved have to live with that for the rest of their life. I can tell you I was involved in a fatal police-action shooting in 2008 and that is something you never forget – that never leaves you. It is a tragedy all around. The sad part is we may never know why.”

The officers will return to work later this week or the following week, depending on their readiness to return to work following the experience, Ison said. Incidents like this take some time to recover, so officers will be given the time they need, he said.

The investigation will not be finalized until the toxicology screen for Vaught is complete, which could take weeks, Ison said.

The investigation into the incident is two-pronged, including a criminal investigation and an internal investigation. Greenwood police are working with Johnson County Prosecutor Joe Villanueva on the criminal investigation portion of the incident. There is no reason to believe at this time there was criminal action taken with the shooting, but launching this type of investigation is the department’s procedure, Ison said.

Body camera and surveillance camera footage of the incident doesn’t, so far, show a deviation from department procedure, Ison said. Greenwood police plan to release the body camera footage at the conclusion of the investigation, he said.