Man who died in DeKalb police car shot himself, medical examiner says

According to the DeKalb County medical examiner's report, police officers firing at 33-year-old Christian Smith inflicted only superficial wounds, while the fatal gunshot wound came from his own weapon.

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According to the DeKalb County medical examiner's report, police officers firing at 33-year-old Christian Smith inflicted only superficial wounds, while the fatal gunshot wound came from his own weapon.

A man who died in the back seat of a DeKalb County patrol car in September was killed by a self-inflicted gunshot wound and not by the officers who fired at him moments before, according to an autopsy report.

Christian Smith, 33, of Ellenwood, died Sept. 25 after he was picked up by DeKalb police while walking in the median of I-20, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution previously reported. The officers gave him a ride to a nearby gas station but discovered on the way that Smith had an active arrest warrant. As they questioned Smith, he reached into the front of his pants and “produced a gun,” DeKalb officials said.

The officer speaking with Smith backpedaled away from him and fired multiple shots at the rear seat of the patrol car, as shown in body camera footage released by DeKalb police. According to the DeKalb medical examiner’s autopsy report released Monday, none of those shots resulted in Smith’s fatal injury.

Instead, “the fatal gunshot wound was inflicted by Mr. Smith himself,” the report said.

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The GBI is investigating the incident between Smith and DeKalb police but has not released an update to its initial public findings.

“During the process of arresting Smith, officers discharged their weapons, shooting Smith,” the GBI said in a news release at the time. “Smith subsequently died from his injuries. No officers were injured. There was a gun located by Smith’s body.”

According to the DeKalb medical examiner’s report, Smith suffered only “superficial” wounds from fragmenting bullets and other shrapnel but died from a serious head wound.

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The report also referenced the body camera footage released by DeKalb police, in which it said, “numerous ‘loud’ sounding gunshots are heard, then an isolated, muffled gunshot.” It lists Smith’s official manner of death as suicide.

— Please return to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution for updates.

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