Man injured after exchanging gunfire with Zebulon officer

aspecht@newsobserver.comJune 27, 2013 

  • Suspect’s criminal history

    Smith has had several run-ins with the law, according to court records.

    He was charged in Wake County with being intoxicated and disruptive in January 2012 and with resisting a public officer in January 2009. Both charges were later dismissed.

    He also had a charge of consuming alcohol by a person age 19 or 20 dismissed in Pitt County in 2011.

    Smith was found guilty of possession of drug paraphernalia in Pender County in 2011 and in Wake County in 2010 and 2008. In 2011, he was found guilty in Wake County of driving under the age of 21 after consuming a controlled substance.

    He was also found guilty of driving while impaired in Onslow County in 2012 and in Pender County in 2011.

  • More information

    Staff writer Aaron Moody

— Before Derek Steven Smith pointed a .22-caliber rifle at a Zebulon police officer, who then shot him, Smith wrestled the rifle away from his grandparents and threatened to hurt himself and others who “beat him up,” according to a 911 recording released Wednesday.

Smith, 22, will likely be charged with assault on a law enforcement officer after firing at officer Travis Denny on June 22 at 908 Moss Road. Smith was transferred from WakeMed to UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill last week where he remained in serious condition Wednesday, according to Zebulon Police Chief Tim Hayworth.

In the 12-minute phone call from that morning, Smith’s grandmother, Betty Sue Woods, 64, describes how Smith hurt her and her husband, Willie Woods, 81, when they tried to take away the rifle Smith had obtained from their room.

“My husband’s hands are bloody,” she said. “Me and him were both pulling on it … but he was too strong.”

Smith had entered the house wearing camouflage shorts, no shirt, and with a bloody face, Woods said. She said Smith wanted to use the rifle to shoot “whoever beat him up.”

Smith also demanded that Woods call his mother.

“I don’t know where your momma is,” Woods said. “If you will stop I’ll make sure I get her.”

Smith then took the rifle with him outside, where he sat on the front steps, Woods said.

“If the sheriff comes up and he aims that thing at them, I don’t know what they’re gonna do,” Woods told the dispatcher.

About 11 minutes after Woods called 911, she saw a law enforcement vehicle in front of her house. It was Denny, the 25-year-old officer who has been with Zebulon police since 2009.

“Derek, please put it up,” Woods said.

She then raised her voice and spoke faster.

“Don’t do that! Don’t do that!” she said. “Put it down! Put it down!”

According to Hayworth and a report by the Sheriff’s Office, Smith then fired a shot, and Denny fired back.

“Oh God! Oh God!” Woods screamed. “Lord have mercy. Jesus ... they shot him!”

Zebulon police placed Denny on administrative duty under department policy, Hayworth said. The State Bureau of Investigation is investigating the incident, which is standard procedure with a shooting involving an officer.

The 911 call realsed by the Sheriff’s Office ends with the dispatcher telling Woods to go talk to police. At first, Woods didn’t hear the dispatcher’s instruction. She was crying and yelling at her husband.

“Why in the world did you have that thing in the bedroom?” Woods screamed. “God help us.”

Specht: 919-829-4826

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