Florida murder suspect dies after standoff at West Knoxville mot

Florida murder suspect dies after standoff at West Knoxville motel

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Officers were seen staging in the parking lot of the nearby Cracker Barrel restaurant. Officers were seen staging in the parking lot of the nearby Cracker Barrel restaurant.
David Smith (source: Polk County, Fla. Sheriff's Office) David Smith (source: Polk County, Fla. Sheriff's Office)
A large amount of police activity was also reported at the nearby Days Inn. A large amount of police activity was also reported at the nearby Days Inn.
KNOXVILLE (WATE) - A suspect wanted for a triple-murder in Florida has died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound after a standoff with Knox County Sheriff's Office SWAT teams at a West Knoxville motel.

KCSO officials said David Eugene Smith, 27, was pronounced dead at UT Medical Center Tuesday afternoon. An autopsy is scheduled for Wednesday.

Deputies say Smith called Knox County dispatch around 9:44 a.m., saying he was wanted in Florida for murder and threatened "suicide by cop."

Patrol officers responded to the Days Inn, 9240 Park West Boulevard, where Smith was staying. A SWAT team was sent in around 10:45 a.m.

"Their first moves aren't to be compliant with suicide. They want to potentially injure law enforcement first, which is very dangerous," said Michael MacLean with KCSO.

John Mattock was eating at the Cracker Barrel watching the scene unfold. He saw the SWAT team suit up and run toward the Days Inn.

"They must realize this a serious situation, and I felt for them that they have to face this type of danger," he said.

Negotiators talked with Smith for about two hours. During that time, Smith fired multiple gunshots from the window of room 236. No one was hit by those shots.

Nate Ferguson was working on Park West Boulevard when he saw the SWAT team at the motel. He looked closer at room 236 to see what was happening.

"Saw the curtains open, SWAT team was getting set up, then we heard a shot. We don't know that shot, where it went, what is was, but it was a shot," he said.

Slideshow: Florida murder suspect captured in West Knoxville


Negotiators lost contact with Smith around 12:15 p.m. Officers then fired tear gas into the room around 1:20 p.m. and entered. Smith was found with an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was taken by a Rural/Metro ambulance to UT Medical Center where he was later pronounced dead.

Smith was wanted in Polk County, Fla. in the murders of three people, one of which is the suspect's sister.

Officials told WFLA-TV that an ROTC student, 14, found her mother, another woman and a man shot dead at her home early Monday when she returned home from a weekend trip. She told one of the chaperones, her ROTC Sergeant Major, what she found, and they contacted the emergency responders.

Related story: Suspect in Lakeland triple murder found in another state

Deputies said Smith was in Knoxville because he had a girlfriend in the area.

Deputies say they have confiscated a Mercury Sable that they say Smith drove to Tennessee from Florida as well as a firearm.

A portion of Park West Boulevard and Park 40 Boulevard were closed for a time, but have since reopened.


Motel guests recall being evacuated or hiding from the suspect

Around 13 families were staying at Days Inn. Just after 11:00 a.m., guests were notified by deputies of the situation. Some were evacuated out of their rooms and hid in the office, while others barricaded themselves in their rooms.

One family was just below room 236 where Smith was holed up. A mother described to 6 News the terrifying hours spent locked in her room with her three-year-old daughter.

"I didn't know if it was the suspect or SWAT team. I was worried a bullet would come through the wall. I had [my daughter] laying in the bathtub and I was on top of her, praying a bullet wouldn't come through the wall," she said.

Her husband was coming back to the motel when stopped by police. He wasn't allowed to go farther, but was able to speak with them by phone throughout the situation, keeping them calm and trying to give them updated information.

The motel has reopened. Knox County deputies say they notified other nearby businesses of the situation. After shots were fired they made everyone get off the street and parking lots, including the media, that were in line of fire from the window of Smith's room.

"You had a possible sniper situation across the street and we needed them to get out of that area and get out of the line of fire," said MacLean.

6 News Reporters STEPHANIE BEECKEN and ALEXIS ZOTOS contributed to this report.

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