The Broward Sheriff’s Office released the name of the man that was shot by deputies yesterday afternoon in Davie, Florida. His name is Hugh Barrington Smith, age 37, and he supposedly has a lengthy criminal history that includes violent crime. According to BSO, Smith was under investigation by a police task force that included investigators from BSO, Fort Lauderdale Police Department, and the Miramar Police Department.
BSO is also claiming that aside from the stash of drugs found in Smith’s car, $46,000 in cash was also found.
While the nature of this task force investigation has not yet been made public and many details are still unknown, it is clear that this case was likely a narcotics investigation.
In a preliminary police report released to the news media, BSO claims that Smith was confrontational with police after being pulled over in the Georgia Pig BBQ restaurant. BSO claims that police first used “non-lethal means” to bring him under control. In fact, a used Taser is one of the items that was collected as evidence.
BSO also claims that Hugh Smith’s violence escalated and he “started ramming patrol cars” with his own vehicle.
These claims are extremely important to this investigation because they reveal a lot about what may have happened and the direction BSO is taking with its investigation. First, by stating that Smith rammed “patrol cars” it seems as though marked police vehicles were present on scene, as opposed to only undercover vehicles.
If marked patrol cars were present, Smith would have certainly known that he was dealing with real police officers and not impersonators. In my last blog entry, I mentioned the possibility that Smith was a drug dealer who may not have known he was dealing with real cops. However, the presence of marked patrol cars at the scene of the incident as the incident unfolded would undoubtedly negate this possibility.
Second, if Smith became violent with police and his violence escalated even after being Tasered, it seems like deputies may have been within their right to use lethal force once Smith made it obvious that he was using his vehicle as a weapon. If he was intentionally ramming police vehicles, it may have been clear that he was ready to ram a person.
However, many more details must be known about this incident before any conclusion may be drawn.
That is why Smith’s family should hire a private lawyer to represent their interests.
For instance, in what way did Smith become violent? In what way did his violence escalate? Who acted violent first? Smith or the deputies? Does the physical evidence present in the case tell a different story than that told by the deputies who shot Smith?
The fact that Hugh Smith may have had a violent criminal past is certainly a factor to consider, although it is not dispositive. On the one hand, a “lengthy violent” criminal history is evidence that Smith may have had a violent character which would be consistent with police claims that he acted violently towards them. On the other hand, just because he had a violent past, does not necessarily mean he acted violently in this case or that he was the aggressor.
If Hugh Smith was pulled over by marked police vehicles and/or uniformed officers, he absolutely should have conducted himself peacefully. He should have submitted himself to police and he should have acted like a gentleman… no matter what they may or may not have said to instigate him.
However, this does not mean that the deputies are exonerated just yet. The mechanics of how this event unfolded are still unknown and must be investigated with great attention to detail. It has still yet to be proven that deputies acted correctly.
A lawyer representing the family would be able to review the conclusions and findings made by police investigators to determine if they are consistent with the evidence.
Presently, all we have are skimpy claims made to the news media and what seems to be a brief preliminary report. So far, it does not seem as though the claims being made by BSO have have been corroborated. For example, what do independent, non-police witnesses say happened? Has any surveillance video been recovered? Have 911 tapes been listened to for calls by onlookers or passersby?
Ultimately, any lawyer or detective investigating this case must determine if there is a discrepancy between the claims made by the deputies and the other evidence present in the case. BSO must determine if there is objective proof that supports the deputies’ actions.
I have said this before and I will say it again – being a police officer is a dangerous and thankless job. I have absolutely no problem with a cop who shoots a suspect in self-defense when the use of such deadly force is warranted.
There is absolutely no reason why a police officer should lay his life down over some violent criminal because it isn’t politically correct to use a firearm in his own self-defense.
I fully support the police when they act correctly and honestly.
My ultimate issue with each and every one of these types of cases comes down to the lawfulness and reasonableness of the officer’s use of deadly force. Because the police work for us, the public, and because their job is to keep us safe, we owe it to ourselves to scrutinize police shootings with a fine tooth comb.
No detail should go unchecked, no claim unverified.
If the police acted correctly when they shot Hugh Smith, then the record should reflect as such and the deputies in question should have clear records when it comes to this case. However, if the evidence shows that they acted unlawfully and shot Mr. Smith because they were too aggressive or abused their power, then they should get the justice they deserve.
Ultimately, no concrete conclusions can be drawn just yet… more information is still needed.