LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Officers of North Little Rock Police Department made a traffic stop on a vehicle occupied by two men and 17-year-old Charles Smith Jr. in the early morning hours of January 7, 2018. The encounter eventually turned fatal.
Before violence erupted during the detention, officers asked the occupants to exit the vehicle as they performed their investigation.
As a result, two of the occupants sat on the curb while another officer searched the teen. In the video that was released (included below), you can hear one of the officers engaging in conversational banter with Smith.
“You ain’t got nothing crazy on you do you? I’m going to check real quick alright,” he said. Moreover, the officer converses about his tennis shoes and asks how he likes them.
However, Smith begins to display diversion tactics, forcing the officer to ask him three different times to quit reaching into his pocket.
Suddenly, Smith breaks away and attempts to flee.
Smith runs and is tackled in front of the two people sitting on the curb. As he falls to the ground, Smith cries out, “I can’t go to jail!”
He pulls a handgun from his pocket, firing once in the direction of the people sitting on the curb, nearly hitting them, and then shoots again at the officers, narrowly missing an officer. The officers returned fire, killing Smith.
A second handgun, this one reportedly stolen, was found in the car.
Following the shooting there was outrage on social media. Worse yet, a false narrative began claiming Smith didn’t have a gun and was shot for no reason.
In an interview with the Arkansas Times the day after the shooting, Smith’s brother Juwaun Jordan said, “They say he resisted, but he wasn’t moving. He was talking. He wasn’t doing [anything],” he continued. “They were tussling him to the ground…When they were on the ground, one of them jumped up off of him, one shot went off, and [the officer] was like ‘he got a gun.’”
The false rumors forced North Little Rock Police Chief Mike Davis to action. He called a press conference to release the dash cam footage of the shooting. According to the chief, the video was presented to the family prior to the press conference.
“Misinformation gets out that says … the subject wasn’t armed, the subject didn’t shoot,” Davis said in a statement to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette. “He was armed and we, in fact, had to take action because of that. I want people to see what happened.”
Consequently, police officers just never know. They take the precautions to safely do the job the public expects them to do. The officer’s instincts in this encounter were absolutely correct, reported Behind the Badge OC. There was something really wrong here, and it nearly cost them their lives.
Most rationale people would agree that a carload of young men driving around at 1 a.m. armed with handguns is a threat to public safety.
It’s not paranoia when the potential threats officers face are real. Telling suspects to keep their hands on the steering wheel, out of their pockets, and to sit on the curb keep police officers alive. Compliance is critical in any police contact. When people fail to comply with the officer’s directions it is oftentimes a diversion to attempt escape, do harm to the officer, or destroy evidence.
That’s what makes the job difficult. Officer’s recognize these tactics and try to control them. To the uneducated person it appears the cops are simply being difficult. Yet failure to pay attention to what appear to be minor acts of defiance can turn fatal for a police officer.