Police in Jackson, Miss., were reeling Friday from the killing of a decorated homicide detective inside the police department’s headquarters as he was interviewing a suspect in a recent killing.
Authorities said Det. Eric Smith, a tall, fit investigator who had been with the department since 1995, was gunned down inside an interview room late Thursday afternoon as he was questioning the 23-year-old murder suspect, Jeremy Powell.
Officers heard several gunshots, and when they went to the room, found both Smith — a married father — and Powell dead of multiple gunshot wounds, police said.
Police in Jackson, the capital of Mississippi, were clearly shaken by the killing of one of their own inside a high-security building where officers and residents alike expect to be safe. But police did not release any details on the sequence of what happened, and said the case has been turned over to the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation, which is standard procedure in such cases.
City officials asked the public for patience as investigators sort out what happened.
“This is a very tragic situation,” Jackson city spokesman Chris Mims said. “The entire city of Jackson and the Jackson Police Department family are all hurting. We are asking for the public’s patience while we find out why this tragic incident happened and how it happened.”
The suspect was being questioned on the third floor of the police headquarters building when the shooting happened, Police Chief Rebecca Coleman said.
Police said in a news release that Powell was in the process of being arrested in the killing Monday of Christopher Alexander. News outlets reported that the 20-year-old Alexander’s body was found Monday near a Jackson street and he had been stabbed in the neck.
Mims described the 40-year-old Smith, who was assigned to the Robbery-Homicide Division, as “a decorated detective and well-respected law-enforcement person throughout the state of Mississippi.”
“He was in the processing of questioning that suspect,” Mims said of the detective. “Other officers in the police department heard gunshots ring out and when they went to the interview room, discovered that both the suspect and the detective were deceased.”
The police headquarters was on lockdown Thursday night, Mims said.
Jackson City Councilman Chokwe Lumumba was in police headquarters with the mayor later and said Smith was shot by the suspect. He did not know how the suspect ended up dead.
“I understand there may have been more than one police officer in the room,” Lumumba said outside the police building.
The headquarters was blocked off and surrounded by crime tape. Law enforcement and Jackson city officials rushed to the scene.
At least 30 Jackson Police and Hines County Sheriff’s office vehicles were haphazardly parked across multiple, major downtown Jackson streets Thursday evening. Officers were visibly shaken, wiping their eyes, and Assistant Chief Lee Vance could be seen comforting Chief Rebecca Coleman at one point, putting his arm around her shoulder outside the building. A 2008 photo on the department’s website shows Smith, in a shirt and tie, accepting a certificate of commendation on behalf of a detective, with Coleman and Vance on each side of him.
Lumumba, who is a lawyer, said he first met Smith in the late 1990s. The then-officer had testified on some of Lumumba’s cases.
“I had great respect for his work and his integrity,” Lumumba said. He added that Smith’s stepson had played basketball on an Amateur Athletic Union team that Lumumba worked with.
“Eric helped take young men all over the country,” the councilman said. “He’s a real man in every sense of the word.”
Mayor Harvey Johnson, Jr. also addressed the officer’s death.
“Detective Smith was an excellent officer in all respects,” the mayor said. “I want everyone to keep the Smith family in their prayers and in their thoughts.”
Also On Black America Web:
This Week’s Celebrity Instagrams (10/15-10/21)
31 photos Launch gallery
1. Just a NY girl with BIG dreams....
1 of 31
2. HAPPY CHILDREN=QUALITY PARENTING. We don't always see eye to eye on everything and that's normal. We're human beings. But we come together and do it right for what's important, the kids. We are not enemies, we are parents. And we are parents 1st. S/O to @monyettashaw for making Mason's bday memorable. S/O to @itscrystalsmith at home taking care of our other lil' Prince. ❤️❤️❤️ THIS IS WHAT CO-PARENTING LOOKS LIKE. #Blessed #Happy #AboveTheDrama #BiggerThanUs
2 of 31
3. So happy to finally be able to share with you all that I’m the new Global Brand Ambassador for @Revlon! Follow my day on RevlonSnaps. Yay! Choose Love, Everybody! #RevlonXCiara #chooselove #ad
3 of 31
4. Glam on point!!!@makeupbymotoko & @shaylinjoneshair #easybreezy @lifetimetv #beachesmovie #january2017 😘
4 of 31
5. ✨True love ✨📸: @jessiemarrerophotography
5 of 31
6 of 31
7. Today was not easy..but by the grace of God we all got through it. Words cannot express our gratitude for all of your Prayers, Positive thoughts and Support for us throughout the years. Tommy will be missed but most certainly never forgotten...And PLEASE don't ask "Where's Martin?.." he was there too...just not in this picture. Lol! God bless you all.. #LoveConquersAll #MartinShow
7 of 31
8 of 31
9. West coast get ready for #RockyHorror. I will be live tweeting again. #letsdothetimewarpagain
9 of 31
10. #THEKEYS pre order yours now ... Available everywhere #NOV22 #WeTheBest 🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑
10 of 31
11. We about to ROCK at #KCABlackBall!! All for our life-changing effort to end 🌎 AIDS.
11 of 31
12. Today's #SNAPJACK is brought to you by @yazzthegreatest 😂😂😂💋💋💋
12 of 31
13. Damn girl you kinda old to be headed to the Go Go. You coming in at the age they leaving. LMAO
13 of 31
14. Daddy daycare B-Boxin with @acewellstucker @shopraisingace
14 of 31
15. #FBF Naviyd & URV "LIL MONSTERS"
15 of 31
16. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ONE OF THE BIGGEST LEGENDS IN OUR HIPHOP HISTORY! @snoopdogg CONTINUED BLESSING AND LOVE FAMILY!!!!! REAL OG!
16 of 31
17. Thank you for a beautiful night VSU! Let's do it again! #HOMECOMING
17 of 31
18. Had a great time this morning with my familia Erica, Griff & Truth!!
18 of 31
19. Check out my interview on @essence facebook live. #inmyownwords #nycpromo #day2
19 of 31
20. #She💋 #tbt #TheCoveAtTheAtlantis #DawgPawsAndAll
20 of 31
21. Bae #retailtherapy
21 of 31
22. Why me and @coryhardrict got the same pose... and notee... new mouth #naked
22 of 31
23. When my husband is my personal 'hype-man'! it kills me every time! 💜😂 #WHATNOW #lostfiles📷
23 of 31
24. Diggy Simmons
24 of 31
25. Hand full of @jacquieaiche 💙💎💍 @esnail_la 💅🏾
25 of 31
26. SuperSoulers! You can watch my interview with Carl Lentz live from my Facebook page, tomorrow at 11a ET| 8a PT. #SuperSoulSunday
26 of 31
27. 💋 .. When the friendship is easy like Sunday morning. ☀️
27 of 31
28. Sunday mornings are the best........... hugs and cuddles with my angel
28 of 31
29. #huggar16 #hellohuggars
29 of 31
30. My gym is everywhere!.. #RnBMoney #TheGeneral 📸: @twelvepastseven
30 of 31
31. Nothing I would rather be doing... Rocko setting up our movie, Romelō working on a puzzle & Laiyah singing and sharing all she's learning at school... I'm so grateful for the joy they've brought into my life ... Praying for peace , joy & love in the home of EVERY family ♥️ #HeadScarfPJSunday LOL 😂
31 of 31