State Police: Man killed by Eaton County officer did not fire on police

BROOKFIELD TWP. - A man shot and killed by an Eaton County Sheriff's Office officer Tuesday afternoon didn't fire a weapon at the officers who were pursuing him, a Michigan State Police official said Wednesday.

Robert Claude Smith, 64, died of a single gun shot wound to the head after ramming a vehicle he was driving into two Eaton County Sheriff's Office vehicles on Wilcox Road just before 1 pm., said Michigan State Police Detective First Lt. Thomas DeClercq.

A State Police official Tuesday indicated there was an exchange of gunfire between police and Smith, who lived on East Spicerville Road outside Eaton Rapids.

State Police are investigating the shooting, which occurred after an Eaton County detective and deputy attempted to serve a search warrant and felony arrest warrant at Smith's home. 

DeClercq said officers observed Smith leaving the residence in a vehicle and attempted to stop it. A police chase followed east on East Spicerville Highway and south on Wilcox Road, he said.

DeClercq said Smith turned his vehicle around at Boody Highway and drove directly at the two police vehicles pursuing him, ramming them both. He declined to say when officers began firing at Smith, but said "multiple rounds were fired" by both police officers.

No other people were in the vehicle with Smith, according to state police.

DeClercq declined to comment on whether Smith was in possession of a firearm at the time of the shooting. The vehicle he was driving is being searched, he said, and police are awaiting lab results from the scene.

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, DeClercq said.

"As a result of that arrest there was a warrant for a felon in possession of a firearm," he said Wednesday.

One of the Eaton County officers injured as a result of the vehicle crash was treated for minor injuries at Sparrow Hospital and released Tuesday, DeClercq said. He said both the deputy and the detective are on paid administrative leave. He added their names will not be released until his department's investigation is concluded.

DeClercq said the State Police hope to complete their investigation of the incident within a week, before forwarding it to the Eaton County Prosecutor's Office for review, he said.

A search of police records show that Smith pleaded guilty to drug charges in Eaton County in 2011. He was sentenced to a year of probation.

DeClercq said their is "no connection" between the warrants and the killing of two horses at a farm on North Ainger Road Nov. 21 in Charlotte. The DNR is assisting the sheriff's office in that incident.

The incident was the third fatal shooting by Eaton County officers since 2015.

In February of 2015 Eaton County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Jonathan Frost shot and killed 17-year-old Deven Guilford, who was unarmed, during a traffic stop in Roxand Township. Eaton County Prosecutor Doug Lloyd ruled the shooting justified after an investigation by State Police. A federal lawsuit by Guilford's family against Frost is ongoing.

Matthew Lundy, 32, of Charlotte was shot and killed that same month by deputies who responded to a call that a sport-utility vehicle was stuck in a snow bank along Canfield Road in Eaton Rapids Township and encountered Lundy, who was armed. Lloyd ruled that shooting justified after a State Police investigation.

Matt Mencarini contributed to this report. Contact Reporter Rachel Greco at (517) 528-2075 or rgreco@lsj.com. Follow her on Twitter @GrecoatLSJ.

© 2017 WZZM-TV


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