This case arose out of a shooting that took place on August 15, 2003, in the north Alabama town of Grant (Marshall County). Verlon LeMaster, the Chief of Police of Grant, received a tip that two 17 year old boys, who had been reported as runaways, were located at a particular house in Grant. Chief LeMaster and three other officers relying on this tip, proceed to this house to pick them up. One of the runaways was Brian Alan Butler, who was also wanted on a misdemeanor marijuana charge.
When the officers arrived, the Chief went to the front door and an adult female confirmed the boys were at home. So the Chief and another officer entered the home. The female called out to the boys to come out from a back bedroom, but they did not come out. So the Chief and one other officer went to the back bedroom where the two boys were located. The evidence at trial revealed that the Chief walked into the room and Mr. Butler was standing in the closet doorway and the Chief, whose gun was still in his holster said, “Come on son, let’s go.” At that point in time, Mr. Butler raised a gun and fatally shot Chief LeMaster in the head. Equally alarming, the occupants of the house knew the boys had .45 cal pistols and had made threats to shoot the police if they came to pick them up, despite these threats the occupants of the house never warned Chief LeMaster he was walking into an ambush.
When the original civil lawsuit was filed in this case there were numerous claims and defendants; however, the verdict in this case was against Brian Alan Butler. Mr. Butler has already been convicted of capital murder, but the family felt strongly that Mr. Butler should also be punished civilly as well. After, a two day trial, the jury returned a $15 million dollar wrongful death verdict in favor of the Estate of Verlon LeMaster.
Plaintiff’s counsel were George Beason and Morris Lilienthal of Martinson and Beason, P.C. of Huntsville, Alabama.