Felon who shot at deputy while fleeing in January gets 25 years

Erick Trace Smith (Submitted photo)
Erick Trace Smith (Submitted photo)

Erick Trace Smith, 33, who has remained in custody since his arrest on Jan. 8, pleaded guilty to aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer and was sentenced to 25 years; to unlawful discharge of a firearm from a vehicle and was sentenced to 20 years; to felony fleeing and was sentenced to 10 years; and to possession of a firearm by certain persons and was sentenced to five years, all to run concurrently.

Additional felony charges of four counts of kidnapping and four counts of aggravated assault involving four people who had been in the vehicle with him that he had reportedly threatened to kill during the pursuit were withdrawn previously, and a misdemeanor charge of driving while intoxicated and numerous traffic charges were adjudicated by time served.

Deputy Prosecutor Caitlin Bornhoft said Tuesday the others involved "were with him that day willingly, but then it turned into a pursuit and fleeing from law enforcement, which they weren't necessarily participating in or responsible for, but they had been in the truck initially on their own accord."

While Smith listed no local prior felony history, Bornhoft noted he had two prior convictions from Texas for kidnapping, which made it illegal for him to own or possess a firearm at the time of the incident.

According to probable cause affidavits, on Jan. 8, shortly after 8 p.m., Garland County sheriff's deputies were responding to a residence in the 200 block of Kevin Road, off Highway 298 in Jessieville, following a 911 hang-up call regarding shots being fired during a disturbance.

Deputies were given a description of a black four-door Dodge Ram pickup as the vehicle the shots came from. Deputy Candice Presley was in the 2400 block of Highway 298 en route to Kevin Road when she passed a vehicle of that description headed in the opposite direction.

She caught up to the truck as it turned onto Little Blakely Creek Cutoff and activated her lights and siren and the truck accelerated at a high rate of speed "on a residential road." The pursuit continued onto Little Blakely Creek Road and Presley noted they were traveling 70 mph in a 30 mph zone "with homes in the area."

In about the 1300 block of Little Blakely, Presley heard "what appeared to be two gunshots" and saw "several muzzle flashes" from a firearm pointed in her direction. She slammed on her brakes when the shots were fired and reportedly saw a gun tossed from the moving vehicle.

The gun, a Mossberg 20-gauge shotgun, was located a short time after the pursuit ended and live rounds and spent rounds of the same caliber of the shotgun were later recovered from the truck.

The pursuit ended when the truck crashed near Crystal Ridge Lane and the sole occupant at that point, identified as Smith, was taken into custody.

Around 10 p.m. that night, Deputy Christopher Brinsfield made contact with two men and two women who all stated they had been in the Dodge Ram prior to and during part of the pursuit.

One man stated he was driving the truck when Deputy Presley got behind it and Smith was sitting behind him. When Smith saw the deputy's vehicle, he told the man to keep driving or "he would kill everyone in the vehicle."

The man said he continued to drive until they lost sight of the sheriff's vehicle and then he pulled over and he and the other three occupants all got out and Smith drove away in the truck.

One female occupant stated she was sitting beside Smith when he did this and he "clearly pointed the shotgun in the direction of the deputy's vehicle each time he fired." They also all stated Smith told the one man to keep driving, "forcing them to be a part of the pursuit or he would kill them all" and they noted he pointed the shotgun at each of them.

They stated once they were far enough away from the deputy, the driver pulled over and they ran into the woods "afraid that Smith would shoot and kill them." They said once they exited the truck, Smith was no longer present and the truck "sped off."

Smith was held on a $125,000 bond and initially pleaded not guilty to charges in Garland County District Court on Jan. 18. The case was bound over to circuit court on March 17, with some of the charges withdrawn and the additional charge of possession of a firearm by certain persons added after it was determined Smith was a felon.

A disposition hearing was initially held on Oct. 17, but Smith reportedly rejected the state's offers at that time so the case was set for trial on Nov. 28. At a pretrial hearing Tuesday, Smith opted to take the offer and pleaded guilty.

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