Investigators: Mississippi suspect used detective's gunJACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A murder suspect wrestled a gun away from the detective interrogating him at police headquarters in Mississippi's capital, then fatally shot the officer before killing himself, authorities said Friday.
By: HOLBROOK MOHR,Associated Press JEFF AMY,Associated Press, Associated Press
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A murder suspect wrestled a gun away from the detective interrogating him at police headquarters in Mississippi's capital, then fatally shot the officer before killing himself, authorities said Friday.
Mississippi Bureau of Investigation spokesman Warren Strain said Friday that 23-year-old Jeremy Powell seized the gun from Jackson Police Detective Eric Smith in a third-floor interrogation room while he was being questioned about a stabbing death earlier this week.
Smith, 40, had been with the agency nearly 20 years, was physically fit and was praised for his work leading numerous high-profile murder investigations, officials said.
"Eric was killed with his own gun," Strain said. Strain said he didn't have details about the gun but said it was Smith's service weapon.
Ken Winter, executive director of the Mississippi Association of Chiefs of Police, said it's not usual for an officer to be armed during an interview unless it's being conducted in a secure area, like a jail. Jails typically require all visitors to check their weapons, including law enforcement.
Winter spent 36 years in law enforcement as a police chief, a detective and as director of the state crime lab.
"For him to be armed, I'd expect that," Winter said. "I don't think I did an interview when I wasn't armed, unless I was doing it in the jail."
But it is rare for an officer to be killed inside a department, Winter said. He said he couldn't recall such an instance in recent years in Mississippi.
Autopsies were being performed Friday at the state crime laboratory, but Strain said it could be several days before the findings are released. The policy of the Mississippi Department of Public Safety is that autopsy reports are not released until they are completed, and some tests could take a few days, he said.
Jackson city spokesman Chris Mims said officials knew of no funeral arrangements as of Friday afternoon.
Smith is survived by his wife, Eneke, a sergeant with the Jackson Police Department, and two sons, Eric Smith Jr. and Quentin Smith. The family lives in a one-story red-brick home in a recently built subdivision in Clinton, a western suburb of Jackson.
A Jackson officer was posted in a police car Friday at the curb outside the house, where family members declined to speak to reporters.
Meanwhile, officials and friends remembered Smith as a talented officer.
Speaking to reporters Friday, Mayor Harvey Johnson Jr. said counselors and clergy were meeting with police officers. He declined to discuss the investigation or police department procedures, instead asking city residents to support police.
"We have men and women out patrolling the streets of Jackson right now, fighting crime, even with this heavy burden upon them," Johnson said.
Hinds County Supervisor Robert Anderson, a former Jackson police officer who instructed Smith in a training class at the city's police academy, remembers Smith for his "analytical intelligence."
"He could develop his own leads and his own information. No one had to tell him what to do," he said.
Captain Joseph Daughtry of the Hinds County Sheriff's Office described Smith not only as an excellent detective but a close friend. They worked together for the city department for 11 years.
"He loved his kids, he loved his twin (brother) and he loved his job and he loved the Saints," he said.
Daughtry, a New Orleans native, said he and Smith bonded over their mutual love of New Orleans' pro football team. He said Smith had a room he called his "sanctuary" that's stocked with Saints memorabilia.
Clay Norton, the athletic director and head basketball coach at Clinton High School, said Eric Smith Jr. played on the basketball team before graduating in 2012. The younger Smith now attends Copiah-Lincoln Community College, where he was a forward on the school's basketball team. Quentin Smith is a high school senior this year participating in football, track and powerlifting, Norton said.
He said Smith was involved in his children's lives and often pitched in to help, whether working concessions or selling programs at events. Smith also was close to other children in the community, Norton said.
"Eric was real close to a lot of the kids. Their home was always open," Norton said. "Eric and Quentin know how to act. They are always respectful and polite, and that indicates good parenting."