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Saturday, 7 February 2009

Police shot and killed a gunman early Friday morning

Reginald Bernard Smith, 27, of Fort Valley, died on the scene after police responded to a large fight at the restaurant at 2:18 a.m. Smith had a gun and was described by police as an “active shooter.” Police shot and killed a gunman early Friday morning outside the Waffle House at 1287 S. Houston Lake Road. An autopsy showed that Smith was shot multiple times by both officers involved in the shooting, according to a Warner Robins police news release issued late Friday afternoon. Police declined to release the exact number of times Smith was shot.The fatal shot was in the upper torso, the release said.At a news conference earlier Friday, Warner Robins Police Chief Brett Evans said the shooting stemmed from a fight inside the restaurant during which a gun was pulled. There were visible signs inside the restaurant that a fight had taken place before the altercation moved outside, he said.Two responding city police officers heard shots fired and went around the back of the restaurant, confronting the gunman, Evans said.Evans said he could not say whether a verbal command was given by police to the gunman before he was shot. The chief said it was a matter of seconds between when the officers heard at least two shots fired by the gunman and when police fired.One officer was armed with a rifle and the other with a handgun, he said.Police do not know how many people were involved in the altercation with Smith, and the person or people involved may have fled before police arrived, Evans said.Evans declined to release the names of the officers. One officer is a one-year member of the force, and the other has been with the department for three years, Evans said. The department has launched an internal investigation, which is standard policy in a lethal-force incident, Warner Robins police Maj. John Wagner said in an interview outside of the news conference. The officers are on paid administrative leave pending the completion of the internal investigation, Evans said. A separate criminal investigation is also being conducted into the general incident itself, he said.Because of the nature of the incident, Wagner said, officers responded from the sheriff’s offices in Houston and Peach counties and the cities of Centerville, Perry and Fort Valley. However, the two responding Warner Robins police officers were the only officers on scene when the shooting happened, Evans said.In an interview outside of the news conference, Warner Robins police Lt. Chris Rooks estimated it would take at least two days to interview all the people who were on scene when police arrived. Evans estimated the crowd at 50 to 75 people.
The restaurant was closed Friday.The last fatal shooting involving Warner Robins police was Jan. 16, 2008, when a suspected armed robber was shot and killed during a holdup of the Food Lion at 2607 Moody Road.Leon Stafford, 38, of 266 Forest Ave., Macon, was shot once in the side after he opened fire on law enforcement officers inside the grocery store, police said.An internal Warner Robins police investigation found that the officer was justified in using deadly force. Houston County District Attorney Kelly Burke upheld those findings.



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