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Family of shooting victim sues Oak Tree Apartments for failing to keep their daughter safe.

Updated: Feb 10, 2022

Judge Jason Cashon listens as attorney Rocky Feemster speaks to jurors on Tuesday.

Opening statements in a civil case that pits the family of Jamie Richards, a Tarleton State University student shot in the face in her Oak Tree apartment in Stephenville in 2017, against Monarch, the company that owns the apartment complex, were difficult to hear.

Ernest Cannon and Kyle Findley are representing Richards’ family in the lawsuit.

Findley delivered a passionate opening statement on Tuesday when proceedings got underway in the 266th Judicial District Court.

Findley called evidence that Monarch failed to keep its tenants safe “disturbing,” and outlined a list of what he alleges were failed safety measures like a lack of security gates and cameras, proper outdoor lighting and patrols.

“(Monarch) put profits over safety. They were more worried about their bottom line than putting in any type of safety measures to prevent crime,” Findley told jurors. “These defendants utterly failed this family.”

Jamie was a 19-year-old pre-nursing major at Tarleton when she was shot in the face at point-blank range after answering a knock at her apartment door in December 2017.

The perpetrator, Shawn Patrick Layton, was found guilty of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, and sentenced to 20 years in prison.

The shooting left Jamie a quadriplegic. She passed away in 2021 after battling leukemia.

The tragedy was worsened when police discovered that Jamie was not the intended victim.

Layton was at Oak Tree Apartments that night searching for then-suspected drug dealer Jeremy Lau.

Findley told jurors that Layton targeted the wrong apartment; Richards lived at 16D and Lau lived at 15D.

“It was the same unit, just one building over,” Findley explained.

Findley said employees of the apartment complex knew that a drug dealer was living on-site, but did nothing about it.

He also presented jurors with an email chain that appeared to show Monarch company officials in Colorado joking about robberies and an accidental gun discharge that took place at the apartment complex prior to the shooting, suggesting they were well aware that crime was taking place.

Findley said the manager of Oak Tree Apartments was under pressure to lease apartments and ignored red flags that might have prevented Lau from moving in.

“Jeremy Lau moves in and starts selling drugs and no one does anything about it because he paid his rent on time,” Findley said. “This is corporate irresponsibility and that’s how people get hurt.”


In his opening statement to jurors, Monarch’s defense attorney Rocky Feemster said the allegation that the company was negligent in keeping tenants safe will not be proven.

“This is about the most tragic situation you could ever imagine, but the issue here is what Oak Tree should have known about what was going to occur,” Feemster said. “Everyone is responsible for their own security. Jamie Richards moved to this property knowing that there were no fences and no gates; she knew there were no security cameras or security guards.

“Jamie made a decision about where she wanted to live knowing that there were no security measures there.”

Feemster told jurors that Jamie’s apartment had a peephole and deadbolt, which are required by law, and that Lau passed a background check before he was allowed to move into the apartment complex.

“The evidence will show that Monarch is not the cause of this event,” Feemster said.

The civil trial is expected to last five to seven days.

1 comentario

Michelle Helms
Michelle Helms
09 feb 2022

Sad, but not the landlords fault. Change the law. Make it where you can evict tenants for drug violations. The cops are as frustrated as we are. They can smell drugs emanating from an apartment and still can't get a probable cause warrant to enter. Smell isn't enough. It's total crap!

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