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Man accused of shooting deputy not guilty on three charges

NATCHEZ — The man accused of shooting a sheriff’s deputy and robbing a local bank in June 2011 was found not guilty Wednesday on three of the five charges against him. No verdict was delivered on the remaining charges.

A jury found Kendrick D. Smith, 23, 68-A Lagrange Road, not guilty of two counts of aggravated assault of a law enforcement officer and one count of aggravated assault.

The two counts of aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer were brought against Smith after he reportedly shot at sheriff’s deputies Charles Harrigill and Billy Neely after allegedly robbing the United Mississippi Bank on U.S. 61 South.

The aggravated assault charge stems from Smith reportedly shooting at a nearby Natchez Ford employee while fleeing from police.

Smith was also charged with a third count of aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer for reportedly shooting Deputy Buddy Frank in the right leg, but the jury could not reach a unanimous verdict after an hour and a half of deliberations. The jury also could not reach a unanimous verdict on the armed robbery charge.

Judge Forrest “Al” Johnson declared a mistrial for the remaining two counts.

Before declaring the mistrial, Johnson asked the jury of nine black women, two white men and one black man if further deliberation would help them reach a unanimous verdict on the other charges. The jurors agreed that it would not.

Smith can be retried on the charges for which the jury could not return a verdict. District Attorney Ronnie Harper said the state plans to pursue prosecution for those charges.

According to testimony and earlier police reports, a man was spotted behaving suspiciously outside Kentucky Fried Chicken on U.S. 61 South and three law enforcement officers — Frank, Harrigill and Neely who were eating lunch in KFC — were notified.

When the deputies went outside, the man fired and struck Frank in the right leg. Frank and the other deputies testified that Frank returned fire and struck the suspect in the left shoulder.

The suspect had reportedly already entered UMB, fired three shots, demanded money and allegedly robbed a Natchez Ford employee inside the bank.

The suspect then fled toward Natchez Ford, where a mechanic testified that the suspect shot at him at the back of the dealership’s service department then fled.

Natchez Police Detective Felesha Fleming testified that a trail of blood indicated that someone had climbed the fence behind the house that separated the property from Plantation Manor Apartments.

Smith was found in a bayou near Plantation Manor Apartments bleeding from an apparent gunshot wound to the shoulder. Smith was not wearing a shirt, gloves, a bandana the suspect had been identified as wearing and had no weapon on him.

Smith’s attorney Carmen Brooks argued Tuesday that none of the evidence proved that Smith was the robber or the man that shot Frank.

Brooks said Smith was shot by the robber, who she said is still at large.

Throughout the course of the testimony, none of the witnesses could positively identify Smith as the bank robber or the man who shot Frank.

In questioning all of the witnesses, Brooks repeatedly circled back to the fact that none of the evidence was sent to the state crime lab for forensic testing. She argued that the gun, bandana, the bloody glove and the hat could not be tied to Smith because the police did no DNA or gunshot residue testing.

Detective Joe Belling, who is the evidence technician for NPD, said that evidence was not sent to the state crime lab for testing based on the fact that the suspect was chased and apprehended shortly after the robbery and shooting happened.

Brooks argued, however, that the jury could not be certain that Smith was the suspect and not a victim because none of the blood found on the cleaning glove, near the crime scene and on money was tested for DNA.

Detective Otis Mazique testified Wednesday about a reported oral confession to the bank robbery he got from Smith during an interview three days after the robbery. The confession, however, was not recorded and no other detective was present during the interview.

Smith was turned over to the Adams County Sheriff’s Office pending further proceedings in the case.