LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) — The dash cam video of the traffic stop and following actions that ultimately led to CJ Smith's death has been viewed more than 317,000 times on our THV11 Facebook Page.
It was there many viewers had questions or concerns about a possible criminal record and how that may have contributed to his death. To bring you answers, we did background research. What we found was a teen potentially facing decades in prison.
Wednesday night friends and family mourned the loss of Charles "CJ" Smith.
"He was a very sweet boy. He was very respectful, and he was a really sweet kid,” Devon Hackett said. Her daughter once dated Smith.
The 17-year-old was shot and killed by police during a traffic stop early Sunday morning. The video police provided appears to show the teen draw a weapon on officers and fire two rounds.
"It wouldn't have mattered who it was. The young man decided to pull a weapon out and fire at officers and we returned fire in place,” North Little Rock Police Chief Mike Davis said Wednesday.
He told us he released the video, in part, because of threats made against his officers and department.
"I'm hoping it will get the truth out and people will see that officers had no other choice than what took place and it will also calm our community," Davis said.
"In this particular case, it seems like the video was released to try to exonerate police officers. That's just one specific context in which new evidence can be used,” said Dr. John Kirk. He is Director of UA Little Rock's Anderson Institute on Race and Ethnicity.
He said if police departments are going to release dash cam video, they need to do it consistently, on every occasion.
"In these circumstances, it gives greater credence to the evidence if it is made available and open on every occasion, Kirk said. "Not just on selected occasions, when it looks as if it exonerates police officers."
Before the video was released, social media was filled with rumors about the shooting. Afterwards, many asked us why Smith drew the weapon on officers and why he said he "couldn't go to jail?"
In December of 2016, we told you about a string of armed robberies from Hot Springs to Benton. At the time, police believed they were connected.
According to Arkansas' court system online records, there were seven armed robberies across four counties between Dec. 3, 2016 and Jan. 4, 2017.
CJ Smith was one of three men implicated in those robberies. He was out on bond, and facing 10-40 years on multiple counts.
Photos, provided by HSPD, which showed CJ leaning against a car used in the crimes, were used as evidence to connect CJ to these crimes. The picture painted by prosecutors is that of a young man, involved in a gang, committing a number of violent crimes.
"Each incident and each episode needs to be weighed and evaluated in its own right and to be seen at its face value and understood at its face value within the context of a larger body of evidence,” Kirk said.
Chief Davis said his officers were not aware of Smith’s record when the traffic stop was made.
North Little Rock Police said they expect to have this investigationturned over to Prosecutor Larry Jegley quite soon. He was the one who allowed NLRPD to release the dash cam video.
We reached out to the Smith Family Attorney for reaction to this new information, but our calls were not returned.