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Officials have released video footage of a Nov. 28 incident in which police fatally shot a man who drove at them in his pickup truck, knocking a detective to the ground and damaging two police vehicles. Dash camera video shows an Eaton County Sheriff’s deputy following Robert Claude Smith, 64, down rural roads before Smith turns around his pickup and drives directly at two stopped police vehicles. Video captured by the deputy’s body camera shows Smith driving at a patrol vehicle and smashing into it, forcing it into a detective’s vehicle. The deputy had left his patrol vehicle and gotten out of the way before the collision. He began firing at the speeding pickup just before it struck the patrol car. The detective had also left his unmarked vehicle before the collision, and was behind it when he was knocked to the ground by the impact of the collision, officials said. State police said in November that the detective’s injuries were minor.
The detective is seen in the body cam video firing at Smith after the pickup crashed into the marked patrol vehicle. Each officer fired eight rounds, said Ingham County Prosecutor Carol Siemon, who reviewed the shooting earlier this month and found the officers acted lawfully. Smith died from a gunshot wound to the head, she said. He was later found to have had a blood alcohol content of 0.19 at the time of his death. Siemon’s office released the video footage in response to a public records request by the State Journal. The shooting occurred after the detective and deputy attempted to serve a search warrant and felony arrest warrant at Smith’s home on East Spicerville Highway in Brookfield Township the afternoon of Nov. 28.
The officers saw Smith leaving the residence in a truck and tried to stop him. The detective and deputy pursued Smith east on East Spicerville Highway and south on Wilcox Road. Officials have said the warrants for Smith’s arrest and a search of the property stemmed from a Nov. 26 arrest by Michigan Department of Natural Resources officers in Eaton County for driving while under the influence. During that encounter, DNR officers found a gun on Smith. Smith was not allowed to possess firearms because he was a convicted felon. Court records indicate that Smith pleaded guilty to drug charges in Eaton County in 2011. Smith told the DNR officers he “would not be afraid to commit gun violence, and that he had nothing to lose,” according to the news release. State police have said previously Smith did not have a gun when he was shot.
Eaton County Sheriff Tom Reich said an internal review of the incident began after Siemon finished her review and has yet to be concluded. “First of all, any loss of life is tragic, and we understand the resulting grief that Mr. Smith’s family and friends are going through,” Reich said in a statement. He said the officers “acted with the only reasonable means available to avert a reasonable threat of death and/or serious bodily injury.” They didn’t know at the time whether Smith was armed, he said. “They were aware of his very recent possession of a firearm as a convicted felon, and that a search warrant had been issued for his residence to search for additional firearms and ammunition.”
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