HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WOWK) — The Huntington Police Department has identified the man they say committed an armed robbery, held a woman hostage and fired on officers before he was shot and killed by officers. The call came in a little after 6:00 a.m. on Tuesday, September 24, 2019, near the Speedway on 8th Street and 9th Avenue.
Police say Jarod Lee Smith, 41, of Huntington, West Virginia, is a convicted felon with an extensive criminal record. They say Smith was pronounced dead shortly after 6 a.m. when he exchanged gunfire with officers in the parking lot of a convenience store.
According to police, officers responded at 6:04 a.m. to 9th Avenue and 10th Street for an armed robbery that had just occurred. Upon arrival, the officers witnessed a man matching the description of the suspect walking west in the 800 block of 9th Avenue. The suspect had a woman with him who was being held at gunpoint. It was later discovered that the suspect was living with the woman, who had a residence in the area.
Officers made contact with the suspect and gave verbal commands for him to drop the weapon. The suspect turned toward the officers, pointed a second firearm at them and fired in their direction.
The suspect then used the woman as a human shield from the officers as he proceeded onto the Speedway parking lot in the 800 block of 8th Street. When the suspect failed to gain entry to the store, he attempted to steal a car traveling north on 8th Street and fired at the vehicle.
As officers approached the suspect on 8th Street, the suspect began firing on the officers and struck one of the officers’ vehicles several times. The officers returned fire and struck the suspect. Smith was pronounced dead at the scene by Cabell County EMS paramedics. The woman who was held by the suspect at gunpoint was not injured in the incident.
Smith’s prior convictions include aggravated robbery in 1998, unlawful wounding in 2000 and domestic battery and wanton endangerment involving a firearm in 2006.
Officers involved in the incident have been placed on administrative leave, which is standard procedure for officer-involved shootings.
Don Roberts is a Barista at Grindstone Coffeeology, which sits next to the Speedway on 8th Street. He had been at work for 15 minutes when he says he heard several shots outside the coffee shop.
“Immediately, [I] saw the road was closed off, so [I] was just curious [about] what happened and later found out what did [happen],” said Roberts.
Roberts has been employed at Grindstone Coffeeology for 2 years and says the area really hasn’t been considered unsafe.
“Definitely safer than most parts,” said Roberts. “[I’ve] never felt in danger, really, but you never know what can happen anywhere.”
“Our officers train extensively for events like the one we encountered today,” Huntington Police Chief Hank Dial said. “Their actions were exactly as they are trained to do. They quickly engaged the suspect and ended the threat to themselves and others. Without their immediate and well-coordinated response, it is likely others would have been injured or killed. They are to be commended for their bravery and professional response.”
“We do not tolerate these types of incidents in Huntington,” Mayor Steve Williams added. “Thankfully, officers were able to protect our community members who were in the area at the time and walked away free from harm.”
Roberts hopes this isolated incident doesn’t become a pattern.
“[I] definitely hope this is a one-time thing,” he said. “[I] haven’t really had anything like this happen around here before, so, hopefully, it’s the first and last time.”