Eric Smith, Miss. cop, fatally shot by murder suspect inside police headquarters, police say

In this 2008 image provided by the Jackson, Miss. Police, Detective Eric Smith, center, flanked by Chief Rebecca Coleman, left, and Assistant Chief Lee Vance accepts the Certificate of Commendation on behalf of Detective Amos Clinton in Jackson, Miss. Authorities say a murder suspect shot Smith inside the Jackson police headquarters and that both the suspect and detective are dead. (AP Photo/Jackson Police)
2008 photo of Detective Eric Smith of the Jackson Police Department
AP Photo/Jackson Police

(CBS/AP) JACKSON, Miss. - Police are investigating a shooting inside a Mississippi police headquarters where a murder suspect was found dead after he shot and killed a homicide detective inside an interrogation room on Thursday.

Det. Eric Smith, a 40-year-old decorated homicide detective who was with the Jackson Police Department since 1995, was gunned down inside an interview room late Thursday afternoon as he was questioning 23-year-old Jeremy Powell, authorities said.

The suspect was being questioned on the third floor of the police headquarters building when the shooting happened, Police Chief Rebecca Coleman said. Officers heard several gunshots and they found both Smith and Powell dead of multiple gunshot wounds, police said.

Jackson police did not release any details about what they believed happened. They said the case was turned over to the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation, which is standard procedure.

"The entire city of Jackson and the Jackson Police Department family are all hurting," said Jackson city spokesman Chris Mims. "We are asking for the public's patience while we find out why this tragic incident happened and how it happened."

The police headquarters was on lockdown Thursday night, Mims said. The headquarters was blocked off and surrounded by crime tape. Law enforcement and Jackson city officials rushed to the scene.

Police said in a news release that Powell was in the process of being arrested in the killing of 20-year-old Christopher Alexander. News outlets reported that Alexander's body was found Monday near a Jackson street and he was stabbed in the neck.

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.

Mims described Smith, a married father who was assigned to the Robbery-Homicide Division, as "a decorated detective and well-respected law-enforcement person throughout the state of Mississippi."

Lumumba, 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 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."