ARLINGTON (CBSDFW.COM) – Officials with the Arlington Police Department announced on Wednesday that 24-year-old officer Jillian Michelle Smith was shot and killed on Tuesday night while trying to protect an 11-year-old child during a triple shooting at an apartment complex.
The shooting incident happened at about 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday night. According to police spokeswoman Tiara Richard, Smith had responded to a domestic assault call at the Arbrook Park Apartment Complex, located in the 4600 block of Nandina Road – Interstate-20 and Collins Street. Shortly afterward, another call reported a shooting at the same complex.
When additional authorities arrived on the scene, they found Officer Smith, 29-year-old Kimberly DeShay Carter and 38-year-old Barnes Samuel Nettles all dead inside of an apartment unit.
The Tarrant County Medical Examiner said on Wednesday that Nettles died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, and that Carter's cause of death was homicide. Later, in a news conference, Richard said that Nettles was no longer at the apartment unit when Smith arrived on the scene. But he returned with a weapon while the officer was talking to Carter and her 11-year-old daughter, who was inside of the apartment unit at the time of the shooting.
Nettles began to fire shots and Smith moved to protect the young girl, getting struck by a bullet and killed in the process.
According to the police, Nettles then shot Carter, his ex-girlfriend, in a bedroom while the 11-year-old child escaped to a neighboring apartment unit. Nettles then returned to the living room where he shot himself. The 11-year-old girl is now staying with other family members.
ABOUT OFFICER SMITH
Smith was just a rookie with the Arlington Police Department. Born in Arlington, she became interested in law enforcement during the sixth grade, the department said. She graduated from Seguin High School in 2005 and the University of Texas at Arlington in 2009 with a Bachelor of Arts in Criminology and a minor in Sociology. She then graduated from the Arlington Police Academy in February and had just completed her field training on December 13 of this year.
Smith was a member of Mount Olive Baptist Chuch in Arlington, where her father is a deacon. "She was an excellent person," said church member Ed Dillion. "She was an excellent police officer, and whatever she could do to benefit mankind, that's what she's done."
A candlelight vigil has been planned for Smith at Mount Olive Baptist Church (301 West Sanford Street) on Monday, January 3, from 6:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. The wake will then be held from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. with Smith's funeral scheduled for 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday, January 4.
A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE
According to documents obtained from the Washington State Patrol Criminal Records Division, Nettles was convicted of raping a child in 1997 and was sentenced to 15 months in prison. He was also required to perform two years of community supervision.
Also in Washington, an unnamed victim – another one of Nettles' ex-girlfriends – filed a domestic violence complaint against him in 2003. During this instance, Nettles reportedly placed a gun to her temple and told her, "I don't care about nothing. I will kill you and kill myself, too," according to the Kings County Sheriff's Office.
Later in the year, Nettles and that same victim got into an argument. Nettles picked her up and shoved her into a wall, hitting her elbow so hard that it bled. According to the incident report, the victim asked Nettles, "If you love me, why do you hit me?" The victim said that Nettles then rolled over and started to cry, part of his cycle from violence to anguish, weeping and apologizing for his abusive outbursts.
The victim said that she was "terrified" of the Nettles, and never knew if he was carrying a weapon. In the report, the victim said that she never reported previous incidents because Nettles had always threatened to respond by killing her or himself.
In total, Nettles has also been charged with assault or domestic violence four times, and had other charges pinned to him including reckless driving and burglary.
In 2008, Nettles was found guilty of failing to register as a sex offender. During that same year – in Ruston, Washington – Nettles was charged with animal cruelty after throwing a Yorkshire Terrier puppy from a second floor balcony as a way of getting back at his girlfriend. The puppy survived the fall.
Nettles and Carter reportedly first met in Tacoma, Washington. "They had problems there," said Carter's 43-year-old stepmother, Leah Richardson, during a statement made in September of this year. "So me and my husband begged her to come live here. She insisted on bringing him, saying that he had changed."
But the beatings soon started again, Richardson said. Nettles repeatedly threatened Carter's life, saying that he was "going to do something to her, 'cause he was tired of her calling and texting him," Richardson said. "He also then told my daughter that he would kill herfamily 'cause he had nothing to lose."
Richardson had reported Nettles to the Mansfield Police Department, where she lives.
And then, in September, Nettles was arrested in Arlington for an assault incident involving Richardson and Carter's 20-year-old sister, Candace Washington. According to Richardson's statement, Nettles grabbed her by the neck and told her he was going to kill her, her family and her husband.
A RARE TRAGEDY
It is rare to hear about female police officers being killed in the line of duty. Not including Tuesday evening's tragedy, just 237 female officers have died throughout American history. The last to die in North Texas was Cockrell Hill Officer Tiffany Hickey in 1999. The 20-year-old crashed her vehicle during a police chase and died six days later. She had been on the job for just one month.
"Anytime you lose an officer who's working in the line of duty, or not in the line of duty, it's hard on the department. It's hard on the city as a whole," Richard said Tuesday evening. "These are people who, day in and day out, they go out and do their job, and they're doing it to protect citizens here."
"It's a hard loss for anyone," Richard continued, "especially during this time of year."
This is now the eighth Arlington police officer to be killed and the second to die in 2010. Back in January, Officer Craig Story died when his motorcycle slammed into the side of a school bus and caught on fire at the intersection of West Inwood Drive and South Cooper Street. Story was a seven-year veteran of the Arlington Police Department.
Randle Meadows Of The Arlington Police Association:
Texas also leads the nation in police officers who have died in the line of duty this year. Data released by the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund shows that 18 officers, excluding Tuesday night's tragedy, have died while on the job across the state of Texas. A total of about 160 officers died nationwide this year. That represents a 37 percent increase over last year.
"It's a tragic situation," said Arlington Mayor Robert Cluck on Tuesday. "Our hearts are broken tonight."
Arlington Mayor Robert Cluck:
You can visit Officer Smith's section of The Officer Down Memorial Page to see more about her career and leave your own personal reflections. Donations to the family of Officer Smith can be made through the Arlington Police Association.
The initial call was classified as Priority 3 -- a low-risk assignment that typically involves taking a report and requires just one officer. It is "standard practice across the industry, and the procedures were followed," said Arlington Police Chief Theron Bowman. "This is a low-priority call. It was Priority 3 out of a 1-2-3 priority system. So, yes, we would expect one officer to hand a call of this nature."
Some people, however, are hoping that this incident will alert authorities to the dangerous possibilities that come with answering any report as a police officer. "Every agency all across the country ought to take this as a wake-up call," said Preston Gilstrap, president of the Black Police Association of Greater Dallas. "Even if we have to strain our manpower, it's better to send two or more officers to domestic violance calls."
Alex del Carment, the Criminology Department Chairman at the University of Texas at Arlington, where Smith attended college, admits that sending multiple officers to each call may not be a realistic possibility. "I think if you talk to most of the police chiefs in the U.S., they would agree. They would to have two officers respond to any call, regardless of the nature of the call they respond to," he said. "However, that's not feasible."
Bowman said that the Arlington Police Association will continue to investigate the situation and reconsider how Priority 3 calls are handled.
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