Man killed by ‘ricocheting police bullet’, inquest hears

A 52-year-old man was killed by a ricocheting police bullet when he refused to leave his room during an attempted arrest, an inquest has heard.

Trevor Smith, a van driver who was suffering from mental health problems, was fatally shot when officers attempted to arrest him at his home in Lee Bank, Birmingham, in the early hours of 15 March 2019.

Jurors heard how Smith had been reported to police by his former partner for threatening behaviour towards her. She alleged he once held a gun to her head, and sent her a WhatsApp message showing a gun on his sofa in which he threatened to “do her in”.

She also said that after they broke up in January 2019, he sent “intimate” videos of her to friends and had received a number of greetings cards from Smith containing threats, one of which was a sympathy card with her photo on it saying: “RIP, you’re always in our thoughts – not.”

Following her complaints, police secured a warrant to arrest Smith and search his property for the firearm. A black imitation firearm was discovered at the property.

Summarising the circumstances of Smith’s death, the senior coroner Louise Hunt said that during the execution of the warrant, Smith remained in his bedroom where he sat on the end of the bed with a duvet held in front of him and one of his arms was not visible.

A police dog was brought on the scene and started barking. Smith dropped the duvet and one of his limbs moved, and one of the police officers fired a weapon, with the bullet ricocheting off the bed frame and hitting Smith.

Smith received CPR and an ambulance attended the property, but he was pronounced dead shortly afterwards. A postmortem confirmed he died from a single gunshot wound to the chest.

Smith’s family described him as “a very bright, talented and creative individual”, a well-dressed “fashionista” and an avid football fan who was popular across Birmingham. “Trevor’s life mattered and he did not deserve to lose it in this way,” his sister Lorna Webley said.

“One Friday morning, someone took my brother’s life in three seconds. At this moment, we cannot explain the proper reason for any good cause for his death.”

She said Smith, a father of two, had “battled with mental health challenges for many years, often dismissed by others as bad behaviour” and that he was deeply affected by his father’s death in 2017. In the months before his death his mother noticed Smith seemed depressed and his usual smart dress had become unkempt.

The inquest heard that in January 2019, Smith had overdosed in an attempt to take his own life and left three suicide notes, after which he was referred to Birmingham and Solihull mental health NHS foundation trust.

Hunt said that over the course of the inquest, jurors would also hear about an “issue” with the defibrillator used during resuscitation attempts and “whether there was any delay in an ambulance attending because there was a mix-up in the address”.

The inquest, being held at Edgbaston cricket ground because of the Covid pandemic, continues.

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