Next big self-defense case: Police claim Charles Smith threatened them with previously undetected handgun
Here we go again. Maybe.
Late yesterday morning David Jannot, an officer with the Savannah-Chatham (Georgia) Metropolitan Police Department, shot and killed Charles Smith, a suspect that had already been handcuffed behind his back and placed inside a police cruiser, reports CNN and other news agencies.
Smith was a 29-year-old black man. Bizarrely, no word has yet been released on Officer Jannot’s race or ethnicity, and I was unable to locate any photographs that might be informative. Indeed, I was unable to find any indication that any reporter had even bothered to inquire into Jannot’s race or ethnicity, a seemingly odd lapse in the aftermath of Ferguson.
Apparently Smith had been picked up by police on outstanding warrants around 11AM on a road that typically enjoys heavy pedestrian traffic. It is anticipated that there will be numerous witnesses to events, and it is known that at least some of the action was captured by cameras installed in the patrol car.
The police department has reported that Smith was handcuffed behind his back and placed in the patrol car. There he managed to move his hands to the front of his body and kick out one of the car’s windows. He then attempted to exit the car, and the officers saw that he had a firearm. It was then that officer David Jannot shot and killed Smith.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), which almost immediately took over the investigation at the local police department’s request, say they found a firearm under Smith’s body.
Although most media reports include the now routine favorable references to Smith–a friend is quoted as saying ““He was willing to help out. If you … needed help, he got you.”–Smith had already served three prison sentences for felony offenses, and was at the time of his death being picked up by police on a felony warrant.
Officer Jannot, described as a 10-year veteran of the Savannah-Chatham MPD, is on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.
Both the city’s mayor and the local police chief were quick to promise transparency of the investigation and to plead for non-violence from the community.
An autopsy is scheduled to be performed on Smith today. The results of that autopsy along with the GBI investigation will be turned over to the Eastern Judicial District Attorney’s Office when completed.
UPDATE [9/19/14, 8:14AM, EST]
A purported witness to the shooting of Charles Smith has been interviewed by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper, the paper reports this morning.
Eyewitness Maurice Williams, 27, said he knew Smith from the neighborhood. He said about 11 a.m. he saw Smith in the back of a police car. He stopped to watch it go by when Smith, who was about 6 feet 7 inches tall, kicked out the window, folded his legs out and pushed on the door.
Williams said the officer exited the patrol car as Smith kicked the window a third time. Williams said he heard the officer say, “Do you want to die?” while he shot Smith in the legs.
Williams said he saw Smith, still handcuffed, escape out the window and fall to the ground. He said the officer fired his weapon three more times, striking Smith in the head and back.
This account has not, however, been verified by authorities. Indeed, previous reports had indicated that Smith had suffered a single gun-shot wound to the head.
Andrew F. Branca is an MA lawyer and the author of the seminal book “The Law of Self Defense, 2nd Edition,” available at the Law of Self Defense blog (autographed copies available) and Amazon.com (paperback and Kindle). He also holds Law of Self Defense Seminars around the country, and provides free online self-defense law video lectures at the Law of Self Defense Institute and podcasts through iTunes, Stitcher, and elsewhere.