LAURENS COUNTY, Ga. — Laurens County's former sheriff and two deputies say they're immune from a federal lawsuit filed after officers shot a man to death in his home in 2014.
But a federal judge last year raised many questions about the officers' credibility and said the lawsuit could go forward.
Now the five-year-old David Hooks shooting death heads to a federal appeals court Wednesday.
On Sept. 24, 2014, Laurens County deputies with a search warrant broke into David and Teresa Hooks' home around 11 p.m. They shot and killed David Hooks as he ran naked toward the door, holding a shotgun.
Teresa Hooks' wrongful-death lawsuit argues that the search warrant and drug raid were both illegal and never should have happened.
Laurens investigators and the GBI found no drugs or meth paraphernalia at the Hooks home.
Last year, federal Judge Dudley Bowens refused to throw out Teresa Hooks' lawsuit.
He wrote that investigator Christopher Brewer may have lied and omitted key facts more than a dozen times when he applied for the search warrant.
Bowens' January 2018 order does not flatly state that Brewer or then-Sheriff Bill Harrell lied before or after the raid.
But the judge raised many questions about their credibility that, he says, a jury should decide.
Now Brewer, Harrell and deputy Steve Vertin are challenging that order. They argue that "qualified immunity" protects them from lawsuits over how they perform their law-enforcement duties.
Bowen's order says a jury might decide that immunity does not apply because "a reasonable officer" should have known there was no probable cause for the Hooks raid.
The U.S. Court of Appeals' Eleventh District will hear oral arguments over the lawsuit Wednesday in Atlanta.
Teresa Hooks' lawsuit argues that the sheriff's office violated the couple's civil rights, caused them both pain and suffering and caused Hooks' wrongful death. Harrell had "personal resentment" against David Hooks and planned to use the raid to seize his assets, according to the lawsuit.
Sheriff Harrell was defeated for re-election in 2016 after 13WMAZ reported that he admitted, under oath, falsely claiming that lab tests linked David Hooks to methamphetamine.
Editor's note: The video in this story is from previous coverage of this case in Nov. 2017.