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Man arrested for shooting Richmond police officer had criminal past

Posted at 12:58 PM, Feb 01, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-01 13:00:52-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- One day after he was arrested for shooting a Richmond Police Officer, Keith V. Smith Jr. appeared in a Richmond courtroom Monday. Smith, who was charged with three felonies including Aggravated Assault on a Law Enforcement Officer, Use of a Firearm in the Commission of a Felony and Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon, was given a court-appointed attorney during Monday's hearing.

Court records indicated Smith was previously arrested in 2010 on a number of drug and gun charges, including possession of drugs without prescription, possession of a gun with drugs and possession of a gun by a convicted felon. He was arrested again about one year later for possession of cocaine with intent to sell and possession of a gun with drugs.

Sunday's shooting marked the 23-year-old's third arrest in Richmond. CBS 6 legal expert Todd Stone said such offenses could lead to life prison sentence for Smith.

Richmond Police spokesperson Gene Lepley said the incident began at about 12:15 a.m. Sunday when the officer approached Smith near the corner of Garland Avenue and Hooper Street.

"It was just a 'stop and talk,'" Lepley said. "They do it all the time. When you have somebody out at night, you engage those people and see what's going on. You find out what's happening."

But Smith began to run, Lepley said. As the police officer gave chase, he fired multiple shots at the officer. One of the shots struck the officer in the leg. That officer returned fire, but did not strike Smith. The other two assisting officers did not fire their weapons in the pursuit.

"Only one person in this whole encounter fired shots and that was the person they were talking to," Lepley said. "Shots were returned by one of the officers in the group. So there was an exchange of gunfire, but it was a return of gunfire by our officer after he was shot by that person."

Additional police swarmed to the area and, with the help of a K9 unit, officers were able to recover the weapon they believed was used to shoot the officer. One of the K9s was able to find Smith hiding in a residence nearby a few minutes later.

Lepley said that detectives will conduct a separate use of force investigation along with the Force Investigation Team since an officer fired his weapon. The department has no plans to release the identity of the wounded officer as he was the only one injured in the shootout.

The officer remained hospitalized and was expected to make a full recovery.

Smith is due back in court March 3.

While detectives are not looking for any other suspects in the case, police are asking anyone with information about the incident to either call Major Crimes Sergeant William Brereton at 804-646-3504 or Crime Stoppers at 804-780-1000.