Smith convicted on five counts of assault

Published 5:00 am Friday, June 8, 2007

A former assistant chief with the Brookhaven Fire Department wasconvicted of five counts of assault Wednesday.

Fred Smith Jr., 52, of 300 Greenwood Lane, will be sentencedtoday at 2 p.m.

The jury deliberated for nearly eight hours before returning tothe courtroom shortly before 9:30 p.m. to convict Smith of onecount of aggravated assault and four counts of simple assault forthe Thanksgiving Day 2005 shooting incident.

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Smith was accused of firing into a vehicle containing hisstepdaughter, three of her cousins and two children during adomestic dispute at his home.

No one was injured in the incident.

Smith was fired from the fire department shortly after beingcharged in the incident.

Smith never denied firing into the vehicle, but claimed no onewas in the vehicle at the time.

Smith was convicted of shooting into a vehicle in March, but thejury failed to reach a conclusion on the aggravated assault chargesbecause they could not determine whether the vehicle wasoccupied.

As in the March trial, Smith faced six counts of aggravatedassault, one for each occupant of the vehicle, this week. However,jurors were given the option of convicting him for the lesser crimeof simple assault in this trial.

Jurors levied the aggravated assault conviction on Smith forshooting at his stepdaughter, Sheena Tillman. The lesser charge waslevied against him for Tillman’s cousins, Angela Tillman andJennifer Wilbert, and the two children, Charcy Tillman, SheenaTillman’s son, and Tyler Rials, the son of a third cousin.

Jurors were unable to reach a verdict on the sixth aggravatedassault charge against Latasha Rials and the district attorney’soffice has decided not to pursue the sixth charge any further, saidCircuit Clerk Terry Lynn Watkins.

Smith took the stand Wednesday in his own defense.

He got a gasp of surprise from several jurors when he explainedhis relationship with Sheena Tillman.

“She was just a stepdaughter. Nothing special. I could take heror leave her,” he said.

Smith’s description of events leading up to the shooting closelymirrored those of other witnesses, but differed greatly at the keymoments.

He said the visitors to his home were standing 15 feet behindhim when he shot into the vehicle and he fired two warning shotswhile asking them to leave.

Investigators counted 11 bullet holes in the vehicle. The 9mmhandgun alleged to have been used in the incident had two roundsremaining in a 15-round clip.

Defense attorney Gus Sermos attempted to show that even if theplaintiffs were in the vehicle at the time of the shooting, hisclient would have hit them had that been his intention.

Smith, a former Jackson police officer, testified he hadreceived firearms training and was a licensed federal firearmsdealer.

“I’ve had extensive firearms training,” he said. “If I’d wantedto hit them I would have.”