The North Little Rock Police Department on Thursday released the names of three officers who fired shots at an armed 17-year-old who died during a traffic stop earlier this month.
Charles "C.J." Smith Jr. died during a struggle with police shortly after 1 a.m. on Jan. 7. The teen, who was in a vehicle with two other people, was stopped near East 52nd Street and Camp Robinson Road.
He was a senior at North Little Rock High School, according to a school district official.
After the fatal shooting, officers Cody Stroud, Samantha Thompson and John Blankenship were put on paid administrative leave, according to a department news release.
All three officers fired their weapons at Smith, police spokesman Sgt. Brian Dedrick said.
Blankenship was hired Aug. 5, 2013, and Thompson and Stroud were both hired July 7, 2014, the release said.
None of them had been placed on administrative leave of any kind before the shooting, Dedrick said.
Dedrick said he could not disclose how many shots were fired during the altercation or how many struck Smith because the investigation is active and that information must go to the prosecuting attorney's office for review.
The Wednesday after the fatal shooting, the Police Department released dashboard-camera footage of the altercation. The footage stops after Smith is shot.
In a news conference that day, Police Chief Mike Davis said showing the footage was necessary because of a "great deal of misinformation" that spread on social media.
Davis said Smith's vehicle was stopped because it was traveling at an "excessive speed" and had a broken headlight.
After officers pulled the vehicle over, an officer spoke to someone inside the vehicle, which is positioned off screen in the video. Stroud is the one who spoke with the occupants, Dedrick said.
"You ain't got nothing crazy on you, do you?" Stroud asks in the video. The person indicates that he does not.
Stroud then tells the person he has to pat him down.
Police said a gun and a small bag of marijuana were found on Smith during a pat-down search. The search is not shown on the video. Davis said a stolen firearm was later found on the driver's-side floorboard.
About a minute into the interaction, Blankenship gets out of the police unit and walks toward the parked vehicle, the video shows.
As Stroud continues to speak with an occupant in the vehicle, he says, "I'm catching a vibe from you, man. I'm trying to figure it out, brother."
He then asks to look inside the vehicle. Two of the vehicle's occupants are told to sit on the curb, the footage shows.
Stroud, who is off camera, speaks to Smith, the remaining occupant, and says, "Ain't nothing but a little bit of weed, man. Like for real, like if you tell us." The sentence stops short, followed a second later by Stroud telling Smith not to reach.
The 17-year-old is first visible on the footage as police take him to the ground.
Davis said at the news conference that police did so because Smith tried to "gain control" of a handgun and flee.
According to police, officers tried to subdue Smith with a stun gun. The weapon is visible in the video.
Smith eventually pulled a firearm from his waistband and fired a shot, police said.
As police continued to struggle with Smith, one officer is seen in the video hitting him.
"[Smith] is then observed engaging the slide back on the gun and again firing at officers, almost striking one officer in the face," Davis said.
At that point, police open fire, the video shows. Smith falls on the curb and his gun is knocked from his hand. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
The Police Department is conducting an investigation into the fatal shooting and will turn over the findings to the Pulaski County prosecuting attorney's office for review.
John Johnson, chief deputy prosecutor, said that as of Thursday afternoon his office hadn't received the file.
"We really, really want to have the video footage from the very beginning until the coroner picked up his remains, to see what was done before and what was done after," Smith's cousin LaQuanda Thompson said in a phone interview Thursday.
The family has retained Philadelphia attorney S. Lee Merritt He previously issued a statement saying that his office will "gather evidence concerning the incident and evaluate the constitutionality of the use of force and subsequent actions and/or inaction by law enforcement."
"At a minimal, the family and their representatives must be granted access to all available body and dashcam footage as well as the employment files of the officers involved in the deadly shooting," Merritt stated.
Smith's grandmother Mary Howard said in a phone interview Thursday that her grandson attended church and had recently started his own clothing line.
"He was a good child. The only thing he wanted to do is graduate," she said.
"It breaks my heart to only spend 17 years with my grandson," she added.
Howard said officials at North Little Rock High School reached out to let her know a chair for her grandson would be saved at graduation.
Metro on 01/19/2018
Print Headline: NLR officers at teen's fatal shooting ID'd; Prosecutor’s office to get file when investigation finished