Vallejo community mourns death of officer

November 18, 2011 8:29:04 PM PST
Throughout the day Friday, the memorial on the front steps of the Vallejo Police Department nearly doubled in size. Many came to pay their respects to Officer Jim Capoot as an officer and a mentor in the police department, but he was also a mentor to the dozens of teenagers he coached in high school basketball.

Players and alumni from the Vallejo High School women's basketball team tearfully carried banners and flowers to the steps of the police department in honor of the fallen officer they knew as Coach Capoot.

"He's just an amazing person; you don't really meet a lot of people like him these days, he cared about this community, he cared about the youth, and he cared about making a change," Vallejo High School graduate Alessandra Jefferson said.

"He came to work every day very happy, very full of life and you know, set the standard for, quite honestly, every officer within this organization to follow," Vallejo Police Sgt. Sid DeJesus said.

Police say Capoot, a 19-year veteran of the force, was acting on a tip from a witness when he began chasing a silver GMC Denali that belonged to 37-year-old Fairfield resident Henry Albert Smith.

Arrested on suspicion of murder and bank robbery, Smith has already been to prison twice on gun charges. In 1995, he was found guilty of assault with a firearm. Then, in 1998, he went back to prison for two and a half years for being a felon in possession of a firearm. He stayed out of trouble for a decade after that but neighbors think he may have fallen on hard times.

"I wasn't working because I was unemployed but I was looking for work, and I would see him all the time, so I figured well, maybe he's unemployed," Smith's neighbor Jason Perry said.

In fact, court records show last April, smith filed for bankruptcy.

Neighbors worry that financial despair may have driven him to the bank robbery that turned into tragedy after Capoot forced him to crash his getaway car, then got out and pursued him on foot.

Police say Smith fired the deadly bullet so fast that officer Capoot never had time to shoot.

Though police launched a manhunt for a second suspect, they concluded Smith acted alone when he shot and killed a man the entire department looked up to.

The Vallejo Police Officer's Association has created a memorial fund on behalf of Officer James Capoot's surviving wife and three daughters. These funds will be used to establish a trust fund in the family's name and an account has been opened with Bank of the West's Vallejo branch. Donations to Officer Capoot's memorial fund can be made as follows:

Officer James Capoot Family Trust
C/O Vallejo Police Officer's Association
(Sergeant Mark Nicol)
P.O. Box 4218
Vallejo, CA 94590
(707) 644-3913


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