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Fairfax officer cleared in shooting of mentally ill Herndon man

Tom Jackman

The Fairfax County police officer who shot a mentally ill Herndon area man in his basement on Feb. 5 will not be charged with a crime, the Fairfax prosecutor said Friday.

Tactical officers were trying to take Ian C. Smith, 25, into custody after he had shown the handle of a gun to his mother and sister. Fairfax police said they thought Smith was asleep, but when they went to the basement, he reportedly pointed a gun -- now known to be a plastic BB gun -- at an officer.

The officer heard "click click click," and thought a trigger was being pulled and shot Smith in the chest and the stomach.

Smith's family said Thursday that Smith had regained consciousness this week in the intensive care unit at Inova Fairfax Hospital, but doctors told the family that Smith is not out of mortal danger.

Fairfax Commonwealth's Attorney Raymond F. Morrogh said Friday he had reviewed the case and "found no criminal liability on the part of the officer who fired his weapon." The officer's name has not been released. Fairfax police typically do not release the names of officers involved in shootings or other critical events.

Alan E. Smith, Ian Smith's father, said he was not surprised by the ruling. He said he has become increasingly suspicious of the police explanation of how the shooting occurred in the basement, and why the decision was made to enter the basement when his son, who the police knew was paranoid schizophrenic, was the only person in the house.

"Ian is going to live to tell his side of the story," Alan Smith said. He said his son has undergone eight operations to repair the damage from two .45-caliber slugs, and that doctors have not yet been able to close his chest up.

-- Tom Jackman

By Tom Jackman  |  February 19, 2010; 11:45 AM ET
Categories:  Fairfax , Tom Jackman , Virginia  
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Well... yall called the Police - thats why they entered the home - 2nd he had a gun (or a BB gun that looks like a gun)... what exactly did the Police do wrong? I for one would never call the Police for anything but since you did...

Posted by: rockettonu | February 19, 2010 1:49 PM | Report abuse

"Ian is going to live to tell his side of the story," Alan Smith said.


Yeah, and I'm sure the testimony of a paranoid schizophrenic will be very compelling. What's he gonna say? "Men with guns came into my basement so I tried to shoot them?" Meanwhile, he's lucky to be alive. Let it go, and pray he recovers.

Posted by: RealityCheckerInEffect | February 19, 2010 2:45 PM | Report abuse

So many people want to use their kids for cash.

Posted by: reneewest225 | February 19, 2010 2:51 PM | Report abuse

I'd expect nothing but "officer cleared" in ANY case of a FCPD cop shooting a civilian... given the past history of the County DA > or who-ever would rule against the cops... > they have free rein to shoot first and ask questions later....

Think of it >> our troops in Afghanistan have more restrictive rules of engagement than does FCPD....

reach inside your jacket near a FCPD cop>> and you take your life in your hands... they can blast you >> tell the supervisor > I thought the person was reaching for a weapon.. I was in fear of the safety of my fellow officers... yada-yada.... and "clean shoot"...

heck > I think more people been killed by FCPD this year than by real bad-guys...

Posted by: kglkgl06 | February 19, 2010 3:38 PM | Report abuse

What the police did wrong was to unnecessarily force a confrontation without determining if the gun was real.

What has not been published is whether the family told the police that there was a good possibility the gun was a BB gun. Of course, this question should have been one of the first questions asked, since the mentally ill man would not have been able to pass a gun background check.

There's also some question as to whether the man raised the gun before pulling the trigger. A 10 ounce plastic object wields differently than a 3 pound pistol.

Kill a citizen legally and win a week off with pay.

Posted by: blasmaic | February 19, 2010 4:16 PM | Report abuse

Of course he's cleared. There will never be a case that can result in some officer being charged given the combined always cowardly efforts of the FCP and the Fairfax Commonwealth's Attorney's office

Posted by: polarbear3 | February 19, 2010 4:17 PM | Report abuse

Well, of course they felt approved to shoot at anyone who owned anything relatively pointy: isn't that what things have come to in this societal breakdown?

Posted by: momosity1 | February 19, 2010 5:20 PM | Report abuse

Hey Alan Smith your son pulled what looked like a gun on police officers. YOU PULL A GUN ON A COP PREPARED TO GET SHOT. End of story. The cops have families too. Stop thinking about yourself.

Posted by: yoooooooo | February 19, 2010 5:44 PM | Report abuse

Are Fairfax Police ever at fault? It is just too easy to shoot someone.

Posted by: jeanauldridge | February 19, 2010 6:26 PM | Report abuse

This case has much in common with a MSP sharpshooter ending the life of James Dean in Leonardtown, MD several years ago. JD suffered from PTS and his reserve unit was going to be returned to Irag. TheMSP took over the situation from the local sheriff's dept, the handling of the situation was found to be overkill ...instead of using militarized police techniques, the situation would probably have wound down peacefully and James Dean might have received the help he needed after having served his country.
Are the police ever wrong anymore unless the victim is 'connected'?

Posted by: AStMarysConstituient | February 19, 2010 8:43 PM | Report abuse

Fairfax Commonwealth's Attorney Raymond F. Morrogh follows in the sordid, embarassing tradition of Robert Horan - talk about lawless cowards.

Posted by: BlazesBoylan | February 20, 2010 3:50 AM | Report abuse

"What the police did wrong was to unnecessarily force a confrontation without determining if the gun was real."

Let me get this straight... Are you insinuating that the officer should have asked a man whose family has identified as armed and mentally unstable, if the gun in his hand is real? Split second decisions have to be made. Sounds like the officer made the right one.

Posted by: oldtimer6 | February 20, 2010 7:53 AM | Report abuse

Go back and read the comments on the original article and you'll see what Ians problem really is. Everything is everyone else's fault but the Smith's.

Posted by: reneewest225 | February 20, 2010 10:26 AM | Report abuse

It is an unfortunate matter to say the least...I sincerely hope the son survives. However, this officer responded in the manner that he was formally trained by his department in regard to deadly force situations. The officer apparently followed his training as to what was perceived as a deadly threat to himself and the other officers present. This is a split second decision the officer had to make, and there's usually not time to discuss and debate the presence of a firearm as to whether or not it's real. I can imagine what this officer is having to deal with, mentally, at this time. Granted, the son was mentally ill, but pointing what appears to be a gun at a police officer initiates a immediate action of self preservation actions on the part of the officer. Sometimes I think we need to walk in the officer's shoes too. It is not always a easy thing to do. I hope the son recovers and gets the help he needs, however I believe the father needs to be a liitle more cognizant of the situation. Yes, it was not a good situation for all involved.

Posted by: rfscotty | February 20, 2010 11:13 AM | Report abuse

Point a weapon at a police officer and the officer is trained to protect his life and that of other police officers. If you disagree with how the police handled this offer a better way. Ever try talking to a mentally unstable person? it doesn't always work out the way you want it. The police always try to talk the person out. Sometimes the person refuses to talk to the police. What should the police do? Wait it out? How long ? Days? Weeks? If the police believed he was asleep then they acted upon that information and the element of surprised failed. Anyone remember Tractor Man? The cops waited him out and look at all the complaints and whining. How about the WW bridge jumper? If the cops had wanted that to go on for days it could have. Next time the cops should let it go on as long as it takes...days...weeks...and sit and wait for the person to surrender. But I'm sure someone will whine about how the cops handled it.

Posted by: Va029 | February 20, 2010 11:18 AM | Report abuse

"Let me get this straight... Are you insinuating that the officer should have asked a man whose family has identified as armed and mentally unstable, if the gun in his hand is real? Split second decisions have to be made. Sounds like the officer made the right one."

Yes, based on what you've described, it sounds okay. But the reality isn't what you described.

The man was known to be mentally ill and had a penchant for occasionally buying BB guns. There was no compelling reason to enter, knowing that the insane guy might just have a BB gun and he might brandish it if startled. They put a cop in the position of having to distinguish between a gun and a toy for no valid reason.

And this time it was a citizen that was shot, but the insane man pulled the trigger three times before the cop returned fire. It could have been very different.

Posted by: blasmaic | February 20, 2010 2:23 PM | Report abuse

Tom Jackman, I suggest you try to get all of the facts. The entire story might really surprise and amaze you. This was a chronically mentally ill "20 something", alone in his own house, in his pajamas. With the entire Fairfax Co Police Department at their disposal, there has to have been something other than guns that the officers could have tried first to apprehend him.

Posted by: MMneighbor | February 20, 2010 10:47 PM | Report abuse

If the gun had been real, the cop would have been killed.

What compelled such a risk?

Posted by: blasmaic | February 21, 2010 2:11 PM | Report abuse

Yeah there would have been no way of this kid actually going to a gun store and getting a registered gun. What if he bought the gun from someone off the streets? The cop did the right thing. What if Ian tried to injure himself with the fire arm? The family would have probably blamed the poilce for not reacting soon enough. I understand the family's point of view but you also have to remember that the police has family and it could be the officer in the hospital right now in the ICU.

Posted by: Thinkb4 | February 23, 2010 10:36 AM | Report abuse

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