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GA Police Officer Shoots and Kills Handcuffed Black Suspect

GA Police Officer Shoots and Kills Handcuffed Black Suspect

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, @LawSelfDefense


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.

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Comments

I’ve seen people who were handcuffed behind their backs who were flexible enough to contort their bodies to get their hands in front of them again.

Another good argument for officers to be equipped with body-mounted video cameras, no?

Eyewitness versions of events can vary widely, but videos are very difficult to refute.

It is heartening, however, that the law enforcement agencies involved appear to be far more forthcoming with appropriate details to inform the public without compromising the integrity of the investigation.

Humphrey's Executor | September 19, 2014 at 9:00 am

I’m mystified as to how the news filter is operating on this. I see no mention of this incident on blog sites that are still full of Ferguson outrage.

the weapon making it into the car bugs the hell out of me.
this is not a mistake a 10yr veteran would make.
wonder if someone else did the pat down and Jannot was just there for transport and failed to double check that.
that gun really bothers me. waiting for more info.

    Henry Hawkins in reply to dmacleo. | September 19, 2014 at 1:07 pm

    It remains the officer’s responsibility to check, but sometimes a previous arrestee has dumped a weapon while in the back seat (or drugs, or…). It’s a felony to take contraband into a jail so they dup them if they were missed on pat down. Officers are supposed to search the back seat enclosed area before they begin patrol.

      exactly, this is one of the items that bugs me.
      was it there prior and how did it get there.
      most cruisers have hard seats with no seams so it would not be possible to hide it in the seat.

    profshadow in reply to dmacleo. | September 19, 2014 at 6:09 pm

    With just a minor bit of “snark” abut the gun making it to the car.

    “Concealed means concealed.”

    But seriously, it is strange that cops miss weapons considering that they probably are the first target of those weapons if they somehow become available.

    I wonder if the procedures manual will be updated and if there will be refresher workshop.

    Maybe. But “this is not a mistake that a person like X would make” is usually overly-optimistic. Veterans make serious mistakes in all professions and no one is immune.

This is simillar to the Durham, NC case back in the spring when an officer picked up a juvenile on a warrant and the kid later shot himself in the back of the police car. He had been given a ‘pat-down’ too before being placed in custody.

This case is troubling as the officer picked up a convicted felon on a warrant and does not find a weapon after a pat-down.

“Do you have a gun on your person Mr. Smith?”
“No (snicker, snicker)”
“Well ok then.”

I mean, really?

Pretty sloppy police work not catching a gun on a perp, if that’s what really happened.

A few names from my area:

Officer Guy Gaddis, shot by a man handcuffed. http://www.odmp.org/officer/601-police-officer-guy-p-gaddis

Officer Rodeny Johnson, shot by a man handcuffed, http://www.odmp.org/officer/18510-officer-rodney-joseph-johnson

Hate to say it but cops sometimes miss guns. It’s nothing short of incredible how well some people can hide a weapon. And it’s too early in this to make a judgement, so let’s just let the process unfold.

Too many eyewitnesses in the pedestrian heavy area so AG Weaselface Holdup won’t be around. Ditto for the Al & Jesse Traveling Show.

Give that cop a medal, quick.

In Utah, white guy killed, officer’s identity withheld. Black guy killed, officer’s identity released, followed by accusations of racial motivation. It’s a violation of equal protection, but creating moral hazards is not a concern for the Democrat-controlled press and social complex. It never was and still isn’t. They will shift the responsibility of reconciliation to the next generation.

The in-car video is going to be helpful, as well as the prints on the handgun. If Smith’s prints are on the gun, and esp. if they are on top, then it was likely a legally justified shooting. If not, then there will be the question of planted evidence. Which is where the in-car video, if present, would be helpful.

One reason that I am more than willing to give the officers the benefit of the doubt, at least this early, is that Smith was apparently already a three time loser, having been to prison three times on felonies. It is quite plausible that he may have been willing to do what it took to keep from going there again, and willing to die in the process, if not successful. Imagine that – three times in and out of prison before he was 30. Likely not an exemplary citizen. (It will be interesting to see what those felonies were).

“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.”

A curious lapse of information indeed. Things that make you go hmmmmmmmmmmmmm……….

Of course at this point there are some huge gaping holes that need filling in for this one, but to me this will come down to if he just “had the gun on him” or if he was trying to actually use the gun. Just the mere presence of a gun is not cause to shoot a prisoner. At this point it sounds more like he was more interested in getting away than in using the gun, but time will tell.

    JackRussellTerrierist in reply to Gremlin1974. | September 19, 2014 at 8:13 pm

    So you don’t think the deceased considered the officer an impedance to getting away, thereby connecting the gun to the escape attempt? Why would a gun be visible in the hands of a handcuffed man?

      While I haven’t read very much about this case, I haven’t read anything that actually said the gun was in his hands. Nor have I seen a report that he pointed the gun at the officer. Apparently he was kicking out a window and getting through that window, with his hands cuffed. He could have just shot the officer in the back of the head through the cage. My main point is there is not a lot of info out there yet and most of what is out there is probably questionable. Just like the rioters in Ferguson should not have jumped to conclusions neither should we.

        JackRussellTerrierist in reply to Gremlin1974. | September 19, 2014 at 8:50 pm

        I think it’s safe to assume Smith didn’t have the gun in his hands while being cuffed and placed in the car.

        And then, according to the officer, he had a gun in his handcuffed hands in front of him after getting through the window.

          The most likely scenario is that a crowd had formed around the police trying to prevent his arrest because that is what ALWAYS happens in these black communities.

          The officers probably handcuffed him quickly and were distracted by the crowd long enough to not notice he busted out the window.

        JackRussellTerrierist in reply to Gremlin1974. | September 19, 2014 at 8:56 pm

        “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.”

          “and the officers saw that he had a firearm”

          Exactly, it doesn’t say he had it in his hands, threatened the officer with it, or even that he pointed it at the officer. From that statement it could have been in his waistband. So I once again say to make a determination more information is needed.

          If he had the gun in his hands, pointed the gun anywhere near the officer or was even trying to pull it from his waistband or from where ever he had it stuffed, in my view it is a good shoot.

          “he had a gun in his handcuffed hands in front of him after getting through the window”

          I have no read that statement, especially from the officer himself, anywhere, could you please link where you got that from?

          JackRussellTerrierist in reply to JackRussellTerrierist. | September 20, 2014 at 12:34 am

          You’re right. Maybe Smith was holding the gun between his teeth, or his feet, or his knees, or his thighs under his groin, assuming his pants weren’t falling down.

          When an officer sees someone trying to escape their patrol car with a gun on them the police should be able to shoot them if the fail to obey an order to halt. There is no way their going to be able to escape without using the gun.

    Bruce Hayden in reply to Gremlin1974. | September 19, 2014 at 10:46 pm

    I don’t think that it is necessary that Smith actually have pointed the gun at anyone. The mere fact that an arrested felon has a gun, esp. if it is in hand, is, I think, probably strong enough to justify the use of deadly force. Maybe not strong enough to support a self-defense claim by the officer. But, what was he going to do with the gun? Pound nails? Use it as a paper weight? Pulling a gun on a cop is usually considered the threatened use of deadly force. The only rational reason to have pulled the gun out, is that he was getting ready to shoot the officer (and maybe others), in an attempt to escape.

    My memory is that there is a difference in the law between using deadly force to effect an arrest, and deadly force to prevent an escape of someone already arrested, at least in some states. For example, prisoners can typically be shot escaping jail or prison. Not sure though what Georgia law is here.

    I still think that the biggest deciding factor is going to be whether that was Smith’s gun, or one planted on him by the police. Either is a bit problematic. Hard to believe that he could be cuffed and placed in a police car, and still retain the gun (though some cases to the contrary were cited above). But, I also cannot believe (yet) that in the post-Ferguson environment, that the police would be dumb enough to plant a gun on Smith.

      Bruce Hayden in reply to Bruce Hayden. | September 19, 2014 at 11:30 pm

      A little more research, and it looks like the right of police to use deadly force to prevent an escape essentially follows the law in terms of arrest – if the officer couldn’t use deadly force to effect an arrest, he can’t use it to prevent an escape after arrest. (Note, this isn’t specifically GA law, but rather, apparently, a national trend). The law is apparently a bit different in preventing escape from incarceration.

      That seems to me to mean that the officer here is going to either have to show that he could have used deadly force to arrest Smith, or that Smith was threatening the use of deadly force to effect his escape, when he (allegedly) put his hand on his gun. Something like that.

JackRussellTerrierist | September 19, 2014 at 8:08 pm

“The results of that autopsy along with the GBI investigation will be turned over to the Eastern Judicial District Attorney’s Office when completed.”

Why?

Has Holder already started jacking this around? Is there some new law now that anytime a black is shot by anyone other than a black the DOJ must automatically be put in the loop or just take over? Is a civil rights investigation automatic whenever the person shot is black? What about the recent case of the black cop shooting the white kid? Is Holder going to examine that? Why did that story only bring a one-story whimper from the press?

JackRussellTerrierist | September 19, 2014 at 9:03 pm

Whatever the case, Smith is in dead felon storage now and no longer a threat to future potential victims.

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