Amanda Jones knew her son was slowly losing himself to paranoia. A longtime sufferer of bipolar disorder, he hadn’t slept or showered in days or taken his medication in months.
Jones, 51, hoped Charles O. Smith could find help as she and two Prince George’s County police officers chased him Saturday afternoon. But she couldn’t keep pace.
“So quick, I hear five shots,” Jones said. “I’m like, ‘I know they haven’t shot my son.’ ”
Police said Smith, 20, was trying to grab a female officer’s gun during a fistfight and could not be stopped by a Taser, chemical spray or batons. Fearing for the officer’s safety, police said, Officer Harry Bond shot Smith in the 13700 block of Hotomtot Drive.
Smith died at a hospital. Bond, a Prince George’s officer for 16 months, has been placed on paid administrative leave while internal affairs detectives probe the incident — standard policy for police-involved shootings.
Police defended the officer’s actions, saying he had “no alternative.”
“The actions of this individual were violent. All less-lethal methods of dealing with him were exhausted,” said Capt. Misty Mints, a Prince George’s police spokeswoman. “It is unfortunate that the situation was escalated to that point.”
Jones said the incident may have begun when the shattering of a glass windowpane spooked Smith. She acknowledged that her son needed to go to a hospital and might have been a danger to himself or others if allowed to run away, but she said she wishes police had treated her son like a man with a disorder instead of a criminal.
“He had a disease, most definitely,” Jones said. “They were supposed to protect Charles and help Charles, not kill Charles.”
Smith, who received a bipolar diagnosis when he was 12 or 13, had struggled with the disorder in recent years, his mother said.
The young man, who Jones said worked as a manual laborer, never seemed to right himself after his father’s death in a D.C. fire that killed six people on New Year’s Day 2009. More recently, his mother said, he had stopped taking his medication and was rattled by an ongoing feud with a friend.
He had even purchased a shotgun — protection, his mother said, in case the friend tried to invade his home. On Saturday, Jones said, a storm apparently knocked out a windowpane in the basement of the home they shared in the 900 block of Andean Goose Way in Upper Marlboro. Smith was upset, she said, and he fired the shotgun several times in the home while she was away.
A neighbor called her and police, Jones said. She said she rushed back and found her son wandering on Route 202. She picked him up, then met two officers who came to the home after reports of the shots.
“I said, ‘Charles, it’s okay. Let me get you to the hospital. It’s going to be okay,’ ” Jones said.
Initially, Jones said, the officers were friendly and her son was calm. They assessed the damage in the home and searched her son. Jones said she told them of Smith’s bipolar disorder and paranoia and asked whether they could call an ambulance.
The mood soon shifted, Jones said. She said her son inexplicably asked for his Bible, then asked whether he was free to leave. A male officer on the scene said he could; the female officer yelled out that they should commit him to a hospital.
Then Smith bolted — perhaps, Jones said, because of the confusion. The two officers gave chase. Jones chased after them.
“I think they should have had more backup,” Jones said. “They got into something that obviously . . . they couldn’t handle.”
Jones said the two officers rounded a corner. Then she heard the shots.