A man suspected of killing three people at a Florida home died in Tennessee on Tuesday from what appears to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound, authorities said.
David Eugene Smith called 911 Tuesday morning, telling a dispatcher at the Knox County Sheriff’s Office that he was the man wanted in the slayings and said he wanted to die at the hands of law enforcement, the sheriff’s office said in a statement on its website. Smith said he was staying at a Days Inn in Knox County, where he holed up during a SWAT standoff that lasted more than two hours.
SWAT officers went to the motel about 10:45 a.m. Negotiators communicated with Smith before losing contact with him about 12:15 p.m. Smith fired multiple shots through the window during the standoff, the sheriff’s office said in the statement.
At 1:20 p.m., officers gassed the motel room and entered. Smith was suffering from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, and he was transported to the University of Tennessee Medical Center, where he was later pronounced dead.
Polk County, Florida, Sheriff Grady Judd said earlier that the search for Smith began after the 14-year-old daughter of one of the victims discovered three bodies in her home in Lakeland on Monday after returning from a weekend ROTC event.
Judd said the 27-year-old Smith called himself “Prince David” and was delusional.
Judd said Wednesday they were not absolutely sure he was the the shooter in the deaths of the three suspects in Lakeland, but he said there was “huge circumstantial” evidence.
“We didn’t have a confession, but we knew he was missing and he lived there and he’d given incredible statements,” he said.
Judd added there was no evidence that led the sheriff’s office in a different direction though they’d spoken with other acquaintances of the victims, but they felt Smith was “their main suspect.”
One of the victims was Smith’s sister, 31-year-old Danyala Smith. The other two were 25-year-old Nikosi Williams and 28-year-old Miranda Mims, said Polk County Sheriff’s spokeswoman Donna Wood. They all lived at 5601 Old Highway 37, Lakeland.
Danyala Smith and Mims lived together in the home where all three were killed, Wood said.
David Smith lived at the same address, but had only moved into the house approximately two months earlier, said Judd.
Judd provided a speculated timeline when the murders occurred and how it was brought to the attention of the PCSO. According to Judd, it was estimated that the murders took place at least after 7 p.m., Saturday, May 24, the last time anyone had any contact with the three victims.
The murders were discovered by Danyala Smith’s daughter, at approximately 9 p.m., Monday, May 26. She had been away on a JROTC event when she arrived home. Upon entering, she discovered her mother’s body and immediately exited the house and contacted her JROTC commanding officer. He then notified the PCSO.
Judd said David Smith had been told by Smith’s parents that their son was a military veteran with the 82nd Airborne and had served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that he suffered from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Judd said David Smith’s mother told the sheriff her son was not taking any man-made medication.
“On his Facebook page he refers to himself as Prince David,” said Judd, who then read a posting Smith had made: “I hate evil and will not allow it on my planet.”
According to Smith’s mother, said Judd, that posting was because her son was delusional and believed himself to be living on another planet. Smith’s behavior just prior to the shooting was also out of character for him.
Judd said that Smith took his father’s car and before leaving hugged his father and told him that he loved him. Another example Judd provided at the press conference were postings in which Smith claimed he had two wives.
“He is not married,” said Judd.
Taking questions from the media, Judd said that in the past Smith had been Baker Acted once, by the Lakeland Police Department. He had also been arrested several times, including when he was in the military.
Judd also stated marijuana had been found in the house.
Authorities said they haven’t yet uncovered a motive.
Sudden scam increase in Polk County
The Polk County Clerk of Courts office has experienced a sudden increase in scam reports this week, the office reports.
Scammers typically impersonate clerk employees, law enforcement or other government officials. They say the intended victim has missed jury duty or has other legal issues pending in Florida and must pay money or provide private information. They threaten that if money is not paid or information provided the individual will be arrested, the clerk’s office said.
Some of the potential victims believe their numbers were targeted after applying for a job on Craigslist.
There are some tips, the clerk suggests.
Jury summons and notices to appear in court are sent by mail, never by email.
The Clerk’s office does not call or email residents to request payment for missing jury duty. The office will also never request payment via any sort of prepaid debit card.
The Clerk of Courts does not call or email residents to verify information related to jury duty or to notify them that they missed jury duty. Communications are only sent by mail.
If a resident misses jury duty, the individual receives a failure to appear notice in the mail from Chief Judge William Bruce Smith, Tenth Judicial Circuit.
Arrest warrants are not issued for failure to report for jury duty.
Do not open an email attachment from an unfamiliar source, and never provide personal information to an unfamiliar source, either by phone or email.
Residents can check if they’ve been called for jury duty online using the Jury Application System at www.polkcounty clerk.net/jury-duty. Users input their driver’s license number and date of birth to access the information. If they have been called for jury duty, it will show the date they are scheduled to report.
For information, call 863-534-4568 or 863-534-4569.
Suspect runs from cops
A 23-year-old Lakeland man was charged May 14 with resisting arrest when he ran from a traffic stop on State Road 60, the Bartow Police Department reported.
Robert Arthur Durrance, of 1920 East Edgewood Drive, Apt. 10, Lakeland, was charged with the crime when he was pulled over because Officer Wayne Stokes had heard he was wanted by the Lakeland Police Department, it was reported.
While patroling, Stokes saw a white Chevrolet Blazer on West Main Street.
Durrance was pulled over on S.R. 60 and prior to Stokes leaving his car, Durrance opened the back passenger door and ran north, police reported.
Officer Randy Taglarini stopped Durrance on S.R 60 and Crown Avenue, about a quarter-mile away, the report said.
Man punches cops five times, then tasered
A 29-year-old man was charged with battery on an law enforcement officer, resisting arrest and threat against a public servant after he allegedly punched a cop in the stomach and had to be tasered three times, the Bartow Police Department reported.
After Mgeul Orlando Coffy, 1706 Seneca Ave. was tasered on May 14 he threatened to kill anyone who did that, a police report said.
When Deputy Chief David Wyant was summoned to Stanford Street and Oak Avenue he spoke with Officer William Reall Jr. and asked if he could speak with Coffy.
Coffy asked Reall why he was messing with him, the report said. Reall said he wanted to speak to him to see if he was OK.
Coffy then rushed Reall and punched him in the torso five times, the report said. He was then placed under arrest but the taser had to be used to stop him from resisting, the report said.
Coffy ignored several commands to stop and continued to batter Reall, the report said.
To stop the incident Coffy was tased two additional times, the report said.
No headlights gets woman meth charges
A 32-year-old Mulberry woman was charged with possession of methamphetamine and possession of paraphernalia on May 15, the Bartow Police Department reported.
An officer pulled over Candice Lynn Baker, of 2445 Riverwood Drive, Mulberry, at 1:15 p.m. on North Broadway at Main Street because the headlights weren’t on during a time of diminished visibility, the police report said.
Baker was noticeably nervous and made furtive movement, the report said.
She was unable to explain where her driver’s license was and continuously searched in different areas. The officer asked Baker if he could search her or the vehicle for weapons or narcotics. She allowed it, the report said.
During the search, a glove box was discovered with a clear pipe. It tested positive for methamphetamine in a field test, police reported.
Baker was taken to the Polk County Jail, but she denied knowing the pipe was in the vehicle.
Man arrested for drug possession
After police searched two people on May 17 after a report of a fight between them one of them was arrested for possession of drug paraphernalia, the Bartow Police Department reported.
The battery complaint appeared to be unfounded after police responded to the site on West Polk Street. A man and woman were both there and the officer asked if he could search them. During the search, a green leafy substance was found in Tavaris Jerry Edmonds’ front pocket.
Tavaris, 24, of 1107 W. Polk St., Bartow, was charged with the crimes and booked into the Polk County Jail.
Father, daughter arrested for fighting
A father and daughter were both arrested for battery on May 18 when police could not determine who started a fight or was the aggressor, a Bartow Police Department report said.
James Michael Evju, 56, of 640 Azalea Place, Bartow, and Courtney Jessica Evju, 27, of 640 Azalea Place, Bartow, were both charged with domestic battery, a report said.
The two were having a verbal argument that escalated and James and Courtney then got physical, grabbing each other’s faces. James had scratches on his face and Courtney had scratches on her left hand.
Neither needed further medical attention and because it was difficult to determined who was the aggressive party, both were charged.
Lakeland man arrested for solicitation
Polk County Sheriff’s Office deputies arrested 49-year-old Kevin Dean Piper, 2333 Idlewild Street, Lakeland, in the pre-dawn hours of Thursday, May 29, charging him with solicitation for prostitution.
A Polk County Sheriff’s Office deputy was flagged down in the area of Combee Road and U.S. 92 East by a man who handed the deputy two packs of Camel 99 cigarettes that had handwritten notes slipped inside the plastic cover. The notes were solicitations for sexual acts in exchange for money and directions on a nearby location to meet, the sheriff’s office reported.
The witness said a white male had driven past him twice in the last 30 minutes and threw the packs of cigarettes out the window to him. While interviewing the witness, the suspect drove by and the witness pointed out the suspect vehicle.
The deputy conducted a traffic stop on the vehicle. Inside the car, in plain view, were several packs of Camel 99 cigarettes – the driver was Piper. The deputy noticed Piper was nervous. When Piper got out of his vehicle he said, “I saw a panhandler and thought he might want to make some money.”
Piper specifically admitted to soliciting the man to perform a sexual act in exchange for money. When questioned further, Piper also told deputies, “You can’t go to Saddle Creek [park] anymore because Grady shut that place down.”
“Looks like somebody got the message that we actively police area parks for lewd activity,” said Sheriff Grady Judd. “But apparently, he didn’t get the message that we also enforce prostitution laws throughout Polk County.”
Piper was arrested without incident and transported to the Polk County Jail.