Calvin Smith, suspect accused of shooting 2 Baton Rouge police officers early Saturday morning, dies in hospital

Update, 5:47 p.m.

One of two Baton Rouge police officers wounded Saturday morning has been released from the hospital, Baton Rouge Police spokesman Sgt. Don Coppola confirmed Sunday.

The second officer remains in the hospital in stable condition, Coppola said.

Neither officer wounded when a suspect in a car chase opened fire on them with a rifle has been publicly identified.

Update, 9:07 a.m.

Calvin Smith, the suspect accused of shooting two Baton Rouge police officers after leading them on a car chase ending in a gun battle, has died, Baton Rouge police said Sunday morning.

Original story

East Baton Rouge Parish’s district attorney said two policemen struck by gunfire are lucky to be alive after a 22-year-old man opened fire on their squad cars with a rifle Saturday morning.

Baton Rouge police said they initially were dispatched to a call about someone damaging property, which led to a car chase that ended with the fleeing suspect crashing. The suspect, later identified as Calvin Smith, emerged with a rifle and exchanged gunshots with two policemen, according to police.

All three men were injured during the shooting — the policemen were in stable condition Saturday morning, and Smith remained in critical condition after he was rushed into surgery.

Smith, who has a history of mental illness, is on probation for a cruelty to juveniles charge from 2014, according to District Attorney Hillar Moore III. It remains unclear where he obtained the gun police said he used to fire at the policemen.

Sgt. Don Coppola said police were called to 770 Monet Drive about 6 a.m. regarding damage to a vehicle in the area. Smith fled in a 2013 Dodge Avenger and was pursued until he wrecked in front of a home at 5629 Fairfields Ave., where he had been living, police said.

Smith climbed out of the car with a rifle and shot at the policemen, who both returned fire despite their injuries, Coppola said.

Both policemen and Smith suffered gunshot wounds when an estimated 30 to 50 bullets were fired, Moore said.

The exchange of gunfire left one of the squad cars with bullet holes in the windshield and a flattened tire. Police units lined the area where the shooting took place, and dozens of markers were placed to flag the location of shell casings and other evidence.

“How they survived is by the grace of God,” Moore said.

He said the shootout came at the end of a car chase that spanned six minutes. He said he’s already viewed dash cam footage.

“It clearly shows the officers were attacked and responded appropriately,” Moore said.

No information was immediately available Saturday about the type of weapon Smith used, but a witness reported hearing multiple shots fired in rapid succession.

Baton Rouge Police Chief Carl Dabadie Jr. said the two policemen were in stable condition Saturday morning, though he would not release their identities.

A bullet grazed the side of one policeman’s head, and his partner was injured on his right side when a bullet penetrated the stitching on the side of his vest, Moore said. Neither suffered life-threatening injuries, he said.

“One more inch, and that officer’s dead,” Moore said of the first policeman.

Moore said his partner also narrowly averted being killed.

“One more inch, with a high-caliber weapon, probably would have gone through the officer’s vest and killed him,” he said.

Smith suffered more serious injuries and was taken to the hospital and immediately brought into surgery. He remained in critical condition Saturday afternoon.

Moore said he believes one policeman might have been wearing a body camera but did not know for certain.

Records show Smith was arrested in Baton Rouge in July 2013 on sexual battery and contributing to the delinquency of a juvenile after he was accused of having sex with a 13-year-old girl whose mother had reported her missing.

Calvin eventually pleaded guilty to cruelty to a juvenile and was sentenced in August 2014 to two years’ supervised probation.

Gina Chambers, who said she is Smith’s godsister, said he moved in with her on Fairfields Avenue when he came back to Baton Rouge in December after living for a time in Shreveport. She said he has a history of mental illness and had attempted suicide previously, but she had not noticed any unusual behavior recently.

Chambers said the suicide attempt was in Shreveport, where Smith had been admitted for treatment and was taking medication for some type of clinical depression. Chambers said family members were trying to get him treatment in Baton Rouge but did not know why he had not received it yet.

Chambers said she does not know where Smith obtained the rifle and was not aware of any gun being stored in the house. She said he did not own a car, either, and that he apparently had taken the Dodge that morning from someone he knew, possibly without their permission.

Hope Walker, who said she’s a close friend of Smith’s, said she was staying with someone down the street when she heard three gunshots early Saturday morning. There was a pause and then a flurry of gunshots afterward, according to Walker.

“The gun went off between 10 and 20 times,” Walker said, describing the second round of shots she heard.

Moore said he and four others from the District Attorney’s Office went out to observe the scene. He said his office will conduct an independent investigation, in addition to the Baton Rouge Police Department’s probe, as is standard procedure with officer-involved shootings.

“We will wait for (the Police Department’s) reports but also independently listen to all the witnesses and look at the evidence,” Moore said. “Ultimately, the call is ours.”

East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President Kip Holden visited the hospital Saturday where the officers were taken and said the shooting should be a wake-up call for the Baton Rouge community about mental health issues.

“Mental illness is a problem in our community and a lot of other communities,” Holden said. “We have to get out there and put action behind lip service. Talking about it is not enough.”

Holden said people in the community need to look out for one another.

“People need to understand if they have someone that’s on medication for mental illness, leaving that person alone in a home and expecting that person to take the medication that’s been prescribed is not responsible,” Holden said. “We have to take a reality check. Just because that person is on the medication does not mean they are safe to be walking around the streets and have access to weapons.”

Holden said Saturday’s event was a tragedy for the shooter and the policemen.

“I just thank God these officers are going to be fine,” Holden said. “It’s time for us to pause for a minute and analyze every part of the system.”

Chris Stewart, president of the Baton Rouge Union of Police, said he was glad the policemen made it out of the situation alive.

“It was a very bad situation, and the outcome was tragic on one hand and good on the other for us,” Stewart said.

Walker said she does not understand what would have made Smith fire at the officers.

“You would actually have to push him to a point,” Walker said. “I never in a million years would have thought this would be the outcome I would hear.”

Follow Danielle Maddox Kinchen on Twitter, @Dani_Maddox4.

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