Witnesses tell different story of gun battle

July 16, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Questions are being raised about what really happened during a running gun battle between one man and police on the streets of Oakland on Wednesday. Witnesses say officers shot and killed an unarmed man. The suspect was a fugitive parolee and rape suspect.

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Police said they stopped Parnell Smith because they believe he matched the description of a rape suspect. They both even carried walking canes. However, now they have confirmed he was not the right person. They now have a name for the actual rape suspect. Two officers are now on paid leave because of the shooting.

Store owners ducked for cover as bullets pierced their windows. Owner Thavy Soy did not even know it was a bullet that flew by until investigators came in asking where it went. It went through her front window, through a box of food on the counter and even through a flower leaf, missing her by mere inches.

"I just heard the pop outside... like a firecracker," said Soy. "If I standing here, I might get hurt, but lucky I stayed over here."

The busy stretch of International Boulevard was the scene of an all out gun battle Wednesday, and the signs still remain.

It began when two officers stopped 36-year-old Smith because they said he matched the description of a rape suspect. According to police, Smith was a wanted parolee, swung his cane at the officers and pulled out a semi-automatic pistol from his waistband, he aimed it at the officers, and then the shootout began.

However, witnesses say it was police who did most, if not all, of the firing.

"Those bullets [are] from the police," said a witness who wished to remain anonymous.

Police sources confirm witnesses who told ABC7 that shortly after Smith was approached by the officers he threw his gun down, a location now marked by police chalk, and then ran to a garage where he was shot multiple times by police.

"I think the police tried to kill him," said the witness.

Authorities will not say who fired first or how many shots were fired.

"The officers in this particular incident used deadly force; they fired their firearms and felt that it was appropriate in that situation," said Oakland police spokesperson Ofc. Jeff Thomason. "The facts remain that we have a parolee at large with a semi-automatic pistol that points at the police."

A woman sitting in this store was hit by glass on her leg. The bullet ricocheted off the door frame, flew through the glass counter and landed in a filing cabinet.

"Nobody got hurt; we thankful for that," said store employee Kao Saeyang. "Very lucky yesterday."

Victim's family is devastated by shooting

Smith's family paid a visit to the scene Thursday and say the police were not justified.

"They killed my brother... for nothing," said sister Veltinette Smith.

Parnell Smith's grieving family is teetering between the emotions of sadness and anger, especially his 17-year-old son.

"I'm sick. This is eating me up on the inside," said Diario Smith, Parnell Smith's son.

This is the second time this family has been involved in a shooting. Ameir Rollins, 20, is Smith's cousin who was shot when he pulled a sawed-off shotgun on police. He says he dropped the gun. He's now paralyzed from the waist down. The city settled the case and paid him $100,000, but admitted to no wrongdoing.

"It's sad and it's hurtful. It's killing us," said Effie Smith, Parnell Smith's aunt.

The two officers are on paid administrative leave until the investigation is over, which enrages Smith's relatives who want to know why the officers are getting paid, while Smith is dead.

This case is being investigated by the district attorney and the Oakland Police Department.

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