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No Charges in the Elizabethtown Officer-Involved Shooting of Lance Edward Smith

On Friday afternoon, Ashley N. Bullard, Executive Assistant to District Attorney Jon David released a statement on behalf of Bladen County District Attorney Jon David in reference to the 2019 Elizabethtown Officer-involved shooting. According to the report there will be no charges will be filed in the Elizabethtown officer-involved shooting death of Lance Edward Smith.

On November 22, 2019 Lance Edward Smith was shot multiple times by law enforcement officers who had responded to a hostage situation which occurred on North Owen Street, Elizabethtown, North Carolina. Mr. Smith later died as a result of injuries he sustained in the shooting.

Whenever a law enforcement officer fires a weapon in the line of duty, an outside and independent review of the shooting is vital to maintaining public confidence in the fairness and appropriate functioning of the criminal justice system. Therefore, immediately following the shooting and prior to Smith’s death, Bladen County Sheriff Jim McVicker, Elizabethtown Police Chief Anthony Parrish, and I made a concurrent request to the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI). The SBI was asked to investigate whether Mr. Smith should be criminally charged for his behavior and whether the use of deadly force by law enforcement was appropriate under the circumstances.

The SBI investigation is complete and my office has reviewed witness statements, photographic and video evidence, scientific, ballistic and medical evidence, personnel records, and other pertinent investigatory documentation. I, and senior members of my staff, have determined that law enforcement’s use of deadly force was justified and entirely appropriate under the circumstances.

In summary, the investigation revealed that on November 13, 2019, a female acquaintance of Smith had taken out a Domestic Violence Protection Order against Mr. Smith. On November 22, Mr. Smith tracked the woman to a home on North Owen Street in Elizabethtown. Mr. Smith removed the woman from the home and held her at gunpoint in a vehicle near the end of North Owen Street shortly before 11:00 a.m. An occupant of the home called 911 to report the incident. Officers from the Elizabethtown Police Department responded and observed Mr. Smith holding the woman at gunpoint inside of his vehicle. After Mr. Smith refused the officers’ verbal commands to put down the weapon and release the hostage a standoff ensued. Members of the Bladen County Sheriff’s Office and the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office responded to assist with attempting to resolve the situation.

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Mr. Smith held the hostage in his vehicle at gunpoint for nearly three hours while officers attempted to negotiate a peaceful surrender. During this time, Mr. Smith positioned the victim in front of himself effectively using her body as a human shield, while continually putting the gun to her head and threatening to pull the trigger. Shortly before 2:00 p.m., Mr. Smith released the woman from the vehicle unharmed. At that time, law enforcement officers ordered Mr. Smith to put down his weapon. Mr. Smith ignored officers’ commands, emerged from the vehicle, and fired multiple shots at the officers.

The officers returned fire. Approximately 65 shots were fired by nine officers. Mr. Smith was struck six times and suffered wounds to the chest, abdomen, hand, and legs. Following the shooting, Mr. Smith collapsed in front of a wooded area and emergency medical personnel responded to treat his wounds. Located near Mr. Smith was a .38 revolver with five spent shell casings. Mr. Smith was then airlifted to New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington, North Carolina where he died at approximately 11:00 p.m. as a result of the injuries he sustained in the shooting.

In the release David is quoted stating, I recently met with Mr. Smith’s family to discuss my decision that no officer will be charged with any criminal offense. Additionally, in the interests of transparency and accountability, I have made our complete investigative file available for inspection by the civil attorney of Mr. Smith’s family, should they choose to retain one. Finally, while several potential criminal charges could have resulted from Mr. Smith’s actions, no such charges will be initiated against Mr. Smith, as all criminal charges are abated by his death.

“I am grateful for the skill and professionalism of all officers involved,” said District Attorney Jon David.

“Although the incident ultimately ended in the death of Mr. Smith, the outcome could have been far worse save for the heroic actions of the officers. The law enforcement officers on scene are to be commended for negotiating the peaceful surrender of the female hostage.”

Related article and video:

Updated: Suspect in hostage standoff was suicidal, SBI investigation on-going

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