Texas

Wood County Constable Federally Charged with Use of Excessive Force

According to court documents, a law enforcement officer in East Texas is accused of ordering his K-9 to bite a suspect who allegedly did not pose a legitimate threat. Lawyers, however, say the official did not commit the crime.

Wood County Pct. 2 PC Kelly Jason Smith, 46, was named in an indictment returned by a federal grand jury Thursday in Sherman charging him with disqualification under the pretext of law, according to the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Texas.

According to the indictment, on July 25, Smith allegedly ordered his police dog to bite a suspect who did not pose a threat requiring the use of a dog.

“These actions resulted in unnecessary bodily harm to the suspect,” the prosecutor’s office for the Eastern District of Texas said in a statement.

According to Justia, a police officer usually acts under the cover of the law whenever he is on duty or acting in his official role. These include situations where an officer is making an arrest, asking questions after showing his badge, or chasing a suspect in a police car.

Smith’s attorneys emailed the Tyler Morning Telegraph a statement on Smith’s behalf Thursday night.

“Constable Smith, a 25-year-old police officer and USMC veteran, did not commit any crime,” the statement said.

Lawyers said Smith was “just doing his job of apprehending an extremely violent man.”

They said the suspect had four outstanding escape warrants and barricaded himself in his trailer. The suspect also “disobeyed the orders of the officers and refused to surrender to the authorities. Constable Smith suffered a broken finger and a knee injury during the incident, and all of his actions met the standards for handling K-9, ”lawyers said.

“This case will be heard by a jury, and we look forward to presenting its defense to the good citizens of East Texas,” said a statement attributed to attorneys Cody Skipper and Toby Shook.

According to his website, Smith has been in his current position since January 2017. Along with serving as a licensed peace officer, his role includes various law enforcement duties, including service of warrants and civil documents, serving as a Magistrate’s bailiff, and working with K-9.

In September, Smith was awarded by U.S. Representative Lance Gooden. Gooden presented Smith with a flag flying over the Capitol and a certificate of special recognition for his work in the police force.

If found guilty, Smith faces up to 10 years in federal prison.

This was stated by Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clark of the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, U.S. Attorney Brit Featherston for the Eastern District of Texas, and Acting FBI Special Agent James J. Dwyer.

The FBI field office in Dallas is investigating the case, and the case is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Tracy Batson for the Eastern District of Texas.

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