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Police release 911 tape of fatal shooting

Posted: August 15, 2012 - 11:05pm

ANCHORAGE — Anchorage police on Wednesday released 911 calls from a fatal shooting, on which the victim’s son pleads for officers to not shoot his drunken father.

“Please don’t shoot him just because he’s acting stupid,” Russell Smith says.

“He’s talking about suicide by cop,” Smith says shortly before officers arrived at his home July 1.

Officers Michael Jones and Bryan Heinz shot and killed Smith’s father, 59-year-old Harry Smith, when the elder Smith aimed a firearm at officers who converged in the backyard. Smith had only a Smith & Wesson BB gun on him, but one designed to look like a pistol.

“It looks exactly like the real thing,” police spokesman Lt. Dave Parker said. “That’s what the officers saw.”

It was the seventh officer-involved shooting in Alaska this year. Another shooting in Anchorage, involving the death of a man wielding a stick, caused outrage in the city’s Polynesian community. Police later revealed that the toxicology report showed that the man shot, Shane Tasi, had a blood-alcohol level of 0.185. He also had been smoking marijuana and had traces of synthetic canniboids in this system.

Police and the state Department of Law, which cleared the officers in the Smith shooting last week, have provided few details. That prompted an editorial Sunday in the Anchorage Daily News which said, “Beginning today, it should be standard practice, in the aftermath of police shootings, for police to produce a written report that describes the sequence of events, lists the evidence produced in its post-shooting investigation and explains the basis for a conclusion that the shooting was justified.”

Parker said it had been their intent all along to release additional information this week.

There was no listing for Russell Smith in Anchorage. He previously told the Anchorage Daily News that he told officers on July 1 that his father had a BB gun. Police disputed that, and there was no evidence in the tapes released by police that Russell Smith warned police his father had such a gun.

“It was not there,” Parker said.

In the 911 tape provided by police, Smith called from the downstairs of his home, where he was holed up with his girlfriend, the door barricaded by exercise equipment. He told dispatchers that his father, who had been drinking in the upstairs portion of the home with two other people later found passed out, had already hit his girlfriend once.

Harry Smith can be heard on the tapes berating his son from the other side of the door for calling police.

“He just said he’s going out in the backyard with a gun. I have no idea if he has one or not. Just don’t shoot him. That’s what he’s got planned,” Russell Smith is heard saying.

“I mean, I just want the people that show up to know that’s what he’s planning, so he might whip out a cellphone at you to get you to shoot him.”

Later, an officer at the scene saw someone leave the backdoor and asked the dispatcher to find out who it was.

Russell Smith told the dispatcher it was probably his father.

“I believe he did, but like I said, I do not believe that there are any firearms upstairs, so please don’t shoot him just because he’s acting stupid.”

Officers were warned by the dispatcher that he might be suicidal, but he didn’t pull out a cellphone.

Instead, police fired two non-lethal rounds made of firm, spongy material at Smith. One missed and the other had no affect before he aimed the BB gun.

The shots that killed Smith were not heard on the tapes. But an officer reports to dispatch, “Shots fired.”

Shortly after, a call goes out for medics for shotgun wounds to Smith’s chest. He was transported to a nearby hospital, where he died.

Jones and Heinz were cleared last week by the state Department of Law’s Office of Special Prosecutions and Appeals, which investigates all officer-involved shootings.

The report concluded “the officers acted believing that deadly force was necessary to protect their lives and the lives of others.”

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