Shooting deemed 'suicide by cop'

January 25, 2010 7:22:26 PM PST
A voicemail message that went unnoticed may have changed the fate of a San Francisco man who was shot to death by police over the weekend.

"It looks really like a classic suicide by cop," San Francisco Police Chief George Gascon said of the officer-involved shooting of 65-year-old Edward Smith.

Smith was shot by one of two officers who responded to a 911 call from Smith's roommate at their home in the Excelsior District. The caller said Smith was drinking and taking medication for a psychiatric problem.

Police said at the briefing that when officers responded, they ordered Smith to show his hands which were behind his back.

"The officer could actually hear the machete being removed from the sheath and the suspect started to advance on the officer," San Francisco Police Inspector Michael Morley said.

Police say Smith was ordered to drop the machete but refused.

"He got within two to three feet as the officer backed away from the residence onto the porch; at that time, the officer discharged his weapon several times," Morley said.

What the officers did not know was that Smith left a voicemail message with his doctor just half an hour before the fatal incident.

Much of his first sentence is inaudible, but he can be heard saying, "I'm going to try to take them out when they come to take me. It's all over today, doctor, it's all over today. Bye bye."

The physician did not find out about this voicemail until after the incident, Gascon said.

San Francisco police do not carry Tasers; Gascon is asking the police commission to approve them. But he believes in this incident, a Taser would have been the wrong weapon.

"Quite frankly, if I had an individual four to five feet away from me with a machete, i'm not going to pull out a Taser, I'm going to pull out a gun," he said.

ABC7 spoke briefly to one of Smith's roommates who did not want to be on camera. All he would say is that Smith was a Vietnam veteran who was being treated for mental problems at the VA hospital. With the exception of a couple of DUI arrests a long time ago, Smith has no criminal record.