The family of James Ernest Goforth has filed a wrongful death lawsuit in U.S. District Court against Deputy Deputy Richard Sapcut and the Laurel County Sheriff’s Department

The attorney for the family of James Ernest Goforth said Goforth was shot in the back of the neck, and that Laurel County Sheriff’s deputy Richard Sapcut was about 60 feet away when he fired at Goforth.

“The bullet struck Mr. Goforth near the base of the skull and exited out the front,” said Lidell Vaughn, who is representing the Goforth family in its wrongful death lawsuit against Sapcut and the sheriff’s department.

Vaughn said his information about the shooting was based on conversations with Goforth’s family and the funeral director and a review of the police run tapes from June 26. He said the information will be the basis for the family’s suit, which seeks unspecified damages and claims Sapcut used excessive force and violated Goforth’s civil rights, and that the sheriff’s department was negligent in allowing Sapcut on duty even though he had not completed the required law enforcement training. The family also is asking for punitive damages.

According to Vaughn, Goforth was running away when Sapcut fired two shots, one of which hit and killed Goforth.

Sapcut and other deputies said they began pursuit after Goforth failed to stop at a stop sign. The chase continued across West KY 80 and down a dirt road near the Daniel Boone Motocross. Goforth was shot after his vehicle got stuck and he got out and started running. Kentucky State Police spokesman Trooper Don Trosper said investigators found a folding-type knife near Goforth’s body.

Vaughn said that by that time, deputies had Goforth’s car and knew his identity and where he lived. He said they could have ended the pursuit and taken Goforth into custody when he returned home.

“There was no reason to shoot him (Goforth),” Vaughn said. “There was nothing this kid was doing to threaten him (Sapcut).”

The Laurel County Major Crimes Task Force, led by KSP Lt. Curtis O’Bannon and London Police Detective-Sgt. Russell Baker has been investigating the shooting.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Jackie Steele said he will probably present the case to a Laurel County Grand Jury when it meets next Aug. 17. Indictments would be returned Aug. 28. Steele said a grand jury always hears the evidence with a shooting involving a police officer.

When asked why the family moved forward with the civil suit before the case was heard by a grand jury, Vaughn said the civil action is warranted regardless of the outcome with the grand jury.

“Whether he is indicted or not, the family fully believes they have a claim,” Vaughn said.

Sapcut was placed on administrative leave, but returned to duty July 20.

Laurel County Sheriff Fred Yaden declined to comment on the lawsuit, saying he had not seen it. Once the defendants are served with the lawsuit, they have 20 days to respond.

Staff writer Dean Manning may be reached at

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