TEXAS CITY — Accounts differ about how Carlton Wayne “Chimmy” Smith, 20, came to be holding a handgun when police responding to a call about a crowd arrived at a notorious nightclub early Friday morning.
Police said Smith had been firing into the crowd leaving H.T.’s Lounge, 6204 FM 1765, as a Christmas bash was ending about 1:30 a.m.
Some friends and relatives said Smith had taken the gun away from another person, who had been shooting into the air, and was holding it with no ill intent.
But police and witnesses agree Smith was holding the gun when the officers arrived.
The club’s owner had called police because people were slow to leave and were lingering in the parking lot, Capt. Joe Stanton said.
Three officers arrived to find 100 or more people and a disturbance, Stanton said. Soon, they heard gunshots, Stanton said.
A six-year veteran patrol officer confronted Smith and warned him to drop the gun, police officials said.
He turned, pointing the pistol at the officer, who fired, killing Smith, police said. Officials have not said how many shots the officer fired.
The shooting led some people in the crowd to throw rocks and other objects at the police.
Authorities named neither Smith nor the officer.
The Daily News confirmed Smith’s identity through both official and family sources.
The newspaper also confirmed through those sources that the officer was white.
That fact had community leaders working Friday to head off any drift toward the type of violent reactions that have followed shootings by white officers of African-Americans elsewhere recently. Eyewitnesses interviewed by both police investigators and the newspaper said that as Smith left the club he got into an altercation with some other men.
As those men ganged up on Smith, a woman who was with him fired shots into the air.
Some witnesses said Smith was simply holding the weapon, but several people said they told investigators Smith grabbed the gun and fired two more rounds before police shot him.
Harris T. Aldridge, who owns H.T.’s, said video surveillance of the incident supports the police department’s account of what happened. He said two women got into a fight inside his club and they were escorted outside.
He said the video showed one of the women firing a gun into the air. Soon after a man he said was Smith, grabbed the handgun.
“The man shot and you see (the) officer was coming up,” Aldridge said. “When he turned he had the gun still pointed. What can you say?”
“I would have probably done the same thing (if) I was the officer.”
Aldridge said the video of the incident was turned over to police.
Under Texas City Police Department policy, the officer was on modified duty until the shooting investigation is complete, officials said.
Police Chief Robert Burby said this was the first fatal shooting by an officer in his department since he became chief 10 1/2 years ago.
The public integrity unit of the Galveston County District Attorney’s Office, with help of the Galveston County Sheriff’s Office, is leading the investigation into the shooting.
During a news conference Friday, Burby pledged the investigation would be transparent.
Burby would not say Friday what kind of handgun investigators had found at the scene.
Sheriff Henry Trochesset said an autopsy had not been conducted Friday, but might be conducted today.
The autopsy should determine where and how many times Smith was shot and whether all the bullets were of the same caliber, Trochesset said.
Sheriff’s officials said a woman who was at the scene of the shooting was arrested.
Erica Renea Hill, 24, of Texas City was charged with resisting arrest and was questioned about the shooting, sheriff’s officials said.
She was released on $7,500 bond Friday afternoon, sheriff’s officials said.
Trochesset said his office was reviewing video recordings of the incident. He said he encouraged anyone with information or video footage to contact the sheriff’s office.
Trochesset said he would coordinate with the district attorney’s office and the Texas City Police Department to release such recordings.
“We are going to have to go to the grand jury with this regardless,” Trochesset said.
Burby said he shared in the Smith family’s grief.
“We got a family who just lost a loved one, period,” Burby said. “We have an officer who had to fire his service weapon and he is affected. We all are affected.”
Police department officials did not offer how the officer may be handling the situation. Attempts to contact officials with the Texas City Municipal Police Association, the union that represents Texas City’s officer, were unsuccessful.
Several of the department’s officers though went to the social media sites to post messages of support for the officer involved. Many posted a photo featuring the Texas City Police Department seal with the world “I support” above in a show of unity.
Meanwhile the club reopened for business Friday night.
Burby said the department had reached out to Smith’s family. He said he was also speaking with members of the community, such as local ministers, and was asking for people to call in with any information about the incident.
“This is going to be a thorough and very methodical investigation,” Burby said. “We are trying to do the very best we can to ensure transparency.”
Burby added that he and his department have tried to work with community members for years.
“I have been meeting with the pastors in the West end of Texas City for almost two years,” Burby said. “We know one another. We hear different things. We work together, establish dialogue.”