“They took my child away from me… took my child away from me in handcuffs, shot him in handcuffs… I just want to see dis officer that killed my son in handcuffs. I want him to suffer like my child suffered.”
Those were the words of Penny Nelson last September as she, her family, and “community activists” attempted to turn Savannah, Georgia, into the next Ferguson, Missouri. Nelson’s violent serial felon son Charles Smith had just been shot as he attempted to escape from police.
Did she mention that he was armed when shot?
A police officer who fatally shot a handcuffed man won’t face criminal charges after a grand jury concluded Wednesday that the suspect was armed with a handgun police missed while patting him down.
The grand jury heard from 45 witnesses and reviewed a Georgia Bureau of Investigation report of more than 2,000 pages in the shooting of 29-year-old Charles Smith last fall, Chatham County District Attorney Meg Heap said.
“I believe the decision the grand jury made should lay this to rest,” Heap told reporters at a courthouse news conference.
Savannah-Chatham County police officer David Jannot fatally shot Smith last Sept. 18 shortly after he had been handcuffed and placed in the back of the officer’s patrol car. Police said that Smith’s hands were cuffed behind his back but that he managed to move them to the front of his body. Smith then kicked out a car window and tried to escape. He was able to get out of the car.
The grand jury’s four-page report said the officer shot Smith five times after the suspect fled the car with a gun in his hand. Jannot testified Smith “pointed the weapon as if to fire it,” the report said, and Smith fell dead with the gun several inches from his hands. Lab tests confirmed Smith’s DNA in skin cells were found on the gun’s grip and at the base of its ammunition clip.
“Many Grand Jurors were appalled that the police did not find Smith’s gun despite the fact at least three officers are seen on video frisking him,” the report said. “… When the police are taking someone into custody who is known to carry a weapon, we would expect them to conduct a thorough search to include the crotch and groin.”
Officer Jannot did 21 years in the miiltary including 13 years in special operations before beginning his career in law enforcement, and Smith’s shooting was the first time he’d ever had to fire upon someone in all that time. The officer hit Smith with four of five shots fired, a phenomenal feat considering that most officer-involved shootings have a hit rate of less than 20%. His accurate shooting likely kept Smith from being able to engage Jannot and Officer Maurice Collins in the trailing vehicle.
A toxicology screen indicated that Smith had cocaine, marijuana, and bath salts in his system at the time he attempted to engage officers.
Officer Jannot is expected to return to duty, pending the outcome of the department’s internal investigation into the matter.