“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, the mother of serial felon Charles Smith. Nelson is one of several in her community that seems intent on trying to turn Savannah, Georgia, into the next Ferguson, Missouri. A police officer shot and killed the handcuffed Smith after he tried to escape from a police car after his arrest for outstanding warrants.
Prior to yesterday’s incident, Smith had a long criminal record including multiple arrests for aggravated assault, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, possession of cocaine, theft by receiving stolen property, and cruelty to children. He’d been incarcerated three times between 2006 and 2013… and apparently didn’t want to go back.
After Smith was handcuffed and placed in a squad car, the officer transporting Smith attempted to drive away. Smith then kicked the window out of the squad car and tried to escape, and things got ballistic.
Police had arrested Smith on outstanding warrants and put him in a patrol car with his hands cuffed behind his back, GBI spokeswoman Sherry Lang said in a written statement. Smith was able to move his hands to the front of his body and kick out a window of the patrol car, Lang said.
The shooting is under investigation and findings will be turned over to the Eastern Judicial Circuit district attorney’s office, the Associated Press reported. An autopsy for Smith is scheduled Friday at the GBI’s crime lab in Savannah, Lang said.
Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan interim Police Chief Julie Tolbert requested that the GBI conduct the investigation.
According to the AP, Lang said officers noticed that Smith had a gun when he tried exiting the patrol car and he was shot by an officer. A gun was found under Smith’s body and the incident was captured on video, Lang said.
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Sadly, if the allegations are true it won’t the first time that an officer has failed to find a handgun on a suspect during a quick or cursory search when the officer either was simply sloppy in his work, or was compelled to do the search quickly to evacuate a troubled area where a disruptive crowd might post a threat. Handguns can be very easy to conceal, and an officer who is either lazy or rushed might not do a complete search before putting a suspect in the car. Jesus Huerta, a teenager in Durham, NC, retained a gun after a lazy search last year and committed suicide with a hidden handgun on the way to the police station.
This incident was apparently captured on video, and if the evidence shows that Smith did indeed have a handgun, then the officer or officers had no choice but to open fire on the armed and escaping repeat offender. The officer who searched Smith might be in hot water and may have violated department policy over the search if this turns out to be the case, depending on the circumstances.
Of course, if there isn’t a gun visible on the video, things are going to get tense. Multiple eyewitnesses are already claiming that they never saw a gun until after Smith was down—asserting corrupt officers used a “throw-away gun” to frame Smith and justify the shooting after the fact.
One disgusting local minister—there’s always one, it seems, that wants to be the next Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton—attempted to whip the community into a near riot after the shooting comparing the police to the Ku Klux Klan. Other men of the cloth and community leaders who were far more responsible were able to keep a lid on the simmering emotions, and channeled the outrage into what became a peaceful protest march.
Smith’s mother, Penny Nelson, can’t seem to find any culpability in her son’s violent actions, and only has blame for the police, claiming:
“He didn’t sell drugs and he wasn’t a violent person,” Nelson said. “You can see how liked he was. Look at all these people. We want justice for my boy. You couldn’t ask for a better friend.”
Charles Smith’s long rap sheet suggests otherwise ma’am.