Waffle House Shooting of Black Male Reginald Smith by Police Justified
District Attorney Kelly Burke, Houston County Judicial Circuit, announced the completion of his investigation into the Warner Robins Police Department fatal shooting of Reginald Smith of Fort Valley. "Reginald Smith's death is a justifiable homicide. This finding is based upon a review of the witness statements, videotapes, audio recordings and departmental policies of WRPD. The Houston County Grand Jury concurs in my opinion that the shooting of Reginald Smith was justified."
Timeline of Events:
2:18:35 a.m. - Waffle House calls 911, reports fight in progress
2:19:42 a.m. - Caller mentions gang activity but then chaos ensues
2:20:50 a.m. - Caller says fighting started
2:21:23 a.m. - Caller reports a gun is present - she identifies Smith by clothing
2:21:30 a.m. - Smith involved in fracas
2:21:45 a.m. - Smith exits doorway
2:22:23 a.m. - Smith reappears in doorway and exits again
2:23:16 a.m. - Fight flows into parking lot
2:23:30 a.m. - Shots fired - first by Smith, then by responding officers
Narrative: Prior to being shot by WRPD officers, Smith had brandished a firearm during a scuffle inside the Waffle House. Smith left the Waffle House during the initial scuffle apparently to go to his vehicle and obtain his firearm. He returned to the restaurant where he brandished the weapon while continuing to participate in the fight. Smith's possession of a firearm was communicated to 911 and then communicated to the responding officers.
As some patrons exited the restaurant, Smith followed outside while possessing his weapon. He remained engaged in a verbal battle with one of the opposing parties, at which time he twice fired his weapon into the air.
Responding WRPD officers (Officer Mettendorf and Officer Hunley) were at that time coming around the building, having been summoned by the 911 call placed by the Waffle House staff. The officers had arrived "black", which means without lights and sirens, as they had been notified that a participant was brandishing a weapon. That is a tactical decision that is made on a case-by-case basis in order to give the officers a chance to arrive without being an obvious target.
As the officers turned the corner, having heard the shots being fired, they saw Smith raise his firearm in the direction of the crowd of people that had exited the Waffle House. Smith was cursing as he raised his weapon. Officer Mettendorf and Officer Hunley fired upon Smith in defense of the crowd of people. Smith was killed as a result of multiple gunshot wounds.
Mettendorf and Hunley immediately called for assistance and attempted to secure the area, made difficult by the large number of people who were fleeing the area.
Medical Examiner Dr. James Q. Whittaker conducted the autopsy of Smith. The autopsy of Smith confirmed that his shooting arm was raised when he was shot by the WRPD officers, which corroborated the officer's story that Smith was raising his weapon when he was fired upon.
Numerous witnesses were interviewed at the scene and during the next several days. No witness gave an account contrary to the officer's statement about what happened. While some may believe they know what Smith's intentions were, all agreed that his action was to be firing a weapon in a large crowd of people.
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