October 23rd, 2008
05:44 PM ET

Fatal police shooting – with a toy gun

Police dash-cam video shows a police officer shooting a suspect.
Police dash-cam video shows a police officer shooting a suspect.

Gabe Falcon
AC360° Writer

Watch the video, And be warned. A man will die.

But the story isn’t so much what you will see on the tape. It’s what led up to it.

A suspect wanted for a theft charge is killed in a hail of bullets from a police officer.

The images of the fatal confrontation were shown to a grand jury in El Paso, Texas.

The officer, Matthew Jones, was cleared of any wrongdoing and was not indicted in connection with the deadly encounter.

The reason? The suspect, Gregory T. Smith, threatened Jones with what the officer thought was a real revolver. It turned out to be a toy gun.

The incident happened on the morning of July 13th. On the dash-cam recording, Smith is seen standing in front of the patrol car. According to investigators, Smith was wanted for a property crime, but refused to surrender to Jones.

The video then appears to show Jones brandishing the gun at the officer. The suspect then leaves the frame, only to reappear apparently pointing the weapon at Jones. The officer fired several rounds at Smith. Authorities say Smith was shot 11 times. However, it was concluded that Jones reasonably believed Smith posed a lethal threat to him and his actions were justified.

Others disagree, and believe the officer's response to the situation was excessive, and should have used more restraint.

What do you think? Justified or not?

Filed under: Crime & Punishment • Gabe Falcon
soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. Rick

    Point a weapon (real or not) at any L.E.O. and you deserve to be shot.
    The officer did what any trained officer should do when a weapon is pointed at him.
    The officer has no way of knowing if it's real or not and would be an absolute idiot to pause long enough to try and find out.

    He gets to go home to his family and the criminal gets a trip to the morgue.

    October 23, 2008 at 6:25 pm |
  2. Cindy

    Well a police officer only has a split second to react in a situation like this. The man pointed the gun at him. The policeman had no idea if that gun was fake or not. All he knew was he could be shot so he did what he had to and what he is told to do in that situation. Sorry that the gunman died but he shouldn't have acted like he was going to shoot the policeman.


    October 23, 2008 at 6:20 pm |
  3. Brandon

    He shot 11 times, I believe that to be alittle more than needed. Although as a Police officer they have the right to protect themselves from harm. He did have a gun, however it was a toy, the fact is he pointed it at the officer. You dont do that with a toy gun or a real gun with out knowing im going to be arrested for this. This time it ended in death. For anyone that disagrees with this please think about what you would have done. And if you believe he should not have shot the victim remember that in New York yesterday 3 officers were shot and two died. If you wait to react you may die and the story will be how this man killed an officer of the law.

    October 23, 2008 at 6:17 pm |
  4. R White

    I worked with police officers for 9 years, riding hundreds of hours on the road with them. We had real guns that looked just like this one pulled on us and if the officer were to have hesitated (ie Used More Restraint) both he and me would not be here today. If a person is going to play with fire, he must expect to get burnt. I agree, this guy forced the officer's hand. He had the toy gun, probably to use in robbing people, or to use to get away from a burglary. Why he chose to point it at a police officer we'll never know. But I've seen the suicide by cop several times and this is probably what he ended up deciding to do.

    Sad, but the officer followed his training and that is to protect yourself from a perceived threat using deadly force when necessary.

    October 23, 2008 at 6:10 pm |
  5. Josh

    Bottom line is, police enforce the law and will defend themselves and others. When a police officer has seconds to make a judgement call whether or not to draw their weapon, they don't have time to reason with someone pointing a gun at them. It would have been one thing if it was a brightly colored super-soaker but it wasn't, it was a small revolver that looked realistically colored from the video.

    You don't point a gun, real or otherwise, at a cop. Come to think of it, you shouldn't be pointing ANYTHING at a cop, especially if you're wanted for a crime. Whether or not he needed 11 shots to get his point across is moot. Calling it a "hail of bullets" is sensationalizing what happened.

    When you get your concealed carry permit in Utah, you're taught that if you need to shoot a threat, you shoot until the threat is gone/dead/no longer a threat; or until you run out of bullets. Whichever comes first. Why should cops be any different.

    Would it have been better to shoot the guy a few times, take a look at him to see that he's still pointing the gun and shoot him some more?

    I don't always support the actions of cops in shootings but I find no fault in what he did.

    October 23, 2008 at 6:04 pm |
  6. Annie Kate

    It looked like a gun to me in that brief instance I saw it also. I would have thought though that the man would have thrown down the toy gun or dropped it before 11 shots were fired. If he didn't and continued to hold it then the officer assumed the only thing he could – that the man was a continued danger to his life. What I don't understand is why would anyone be dumb enough to brandish even a toy pistol at the police?

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    October 23, 2008 at 6:01 pm |
  7. Mister Gone

    Of course it was justified.

    October 23, 2008 at 6:00 pm |
  8. Ron Armstrong

    Absolutely justified. If the officer had hesitated and the gun was real, the officer would be dead. I'm sure the officer reacted the way he was trained and used a reasonable amount of force to combat the threat.

    October 23, 2008 at 5:57 pm |
  9. Halli

    I don't think any shooting can be justified.

    October 23, 2008 at 5:53 pm |