An early morning shooting in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, left two police officers injured and one suspect mortally wounded. Responding to a call about someone damaging property, officers got into a gun battle while chasing a man through a quiet neighborhood around 5:30 a.m. Saturday.
Police Chief Carl Dabadie Jr. confirmed that the injuries sustained by the officers were not life-threatening. The suspect 22-year-old Calvin Smith, on the other hand, was critically injured during the shootout and died Saturday night at a local hospital.
One bullet grazed the head of one officer, said East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore. The other officer was shot in the stomach, but was wearing a bulletproof vest.
“These guys are fortunate to be alive. God didn’t want to take them today. It was not their day.”
The officers’ names have not been released. Moore noted that one officer is white and the other black. Smith is also black.
Last year, Smith had attempted suicide when he was living with a sister in Shreveport, Louisiana. According to family friend Gina Chambers, Smith had been undergoing treatment for several “mental issues” since the suicide attempt. Smith had been living in Baton Rouge with Chambers since December.
CBS News reports that Smith was on medication as part of his mental health treatment. Chambers said she did not notice any obvious signs of a mental breakdown before the Baton Rouge shooting.
“He seemed like he was fine,” she said.
The District Attorney’s office is familiar with Calvin Smith. In 2014, Smith was convicted for indecent behavior with a juvenile and put on probation.
Just before dawn on Saturday, Baton Rouge police responded to call from someone reporting some property being damaged. According to local station WBRZ, Smith was at his girlfriend’s house, destroying a car in the driveway and violently fighting with another male who lived in the home.
As soon as police showed up, Smith fled the scene in a vehicle.
The officers pursued him for about two miles until he jumped out of the Dodge Avenger near Chambers’ home. Immediately thereafter, Smith pulled out a rifle and began shooting at the officers said Baton Rouge Sergeant Don Coppola.
The officers were forced to return fire, critically injuring the suspect. Smith’s weapon was later described as a large caliber, semi-automatic rifle. Chambers isn’t sure where Smith would have acquired such a weapon.
After reviewing dashboard camera videos of the six-minute chase and the gunfight, Moore says the officers’ actions were “totally justified.”
“My first reaction was ‘How were these officers not killed?’ Clearly the suspect initiated the firing.”
The investigation is ongoing and no official determination has been made, but Moore likened Smith’s actions to an “ambush.” One officer was equipped with a body camera, but it may not have been activated before the firefight broke out.
Some have speculated that Smith fired at officers in an attempt to commit “suicide by cop.” While there is partial evidence pointing to that, Moore said Smith’s motivation cannot be confirmed at this time.
The neighborhood where the shooting occurred is about four miles east of downtown Baton Rouge. Local residents stood outside in the cold watching as police laid dozens of evidence markers on the ground and towed away two police cars, one with at least three bullet holes in it.
As many as 40 shots were fired, according to Terrell Starwood, who was visiting a friend at the time. “You could tell they were from different guns,” Starwood said. “I didn’t hear nothing but sirens, gunshots and tires squealing.”
After the shooting, Baton Rouge police remained at the scene for almost five hours. As is standard procedure after any police shooting, both officers have been placed on paid leave.
[Photo by AP Photo/Bill Feig]