State Attorney’s Office: Use of deadly force justified

The State Attorney’s Office announced today that a review of the investigation into the officer-involved shooting of Joel Dixon Smith, who shot and killed Okaloosa County Deputy Bill Myers, has been completed and determined that the shooting of Dixon was justified.

More details emerge about the hours before the shooting that occurred on Sept. 22, 2015.  The investigation report says that on Sept. 20 Smith was involved in a domestic violence incident with his wife at their Niceville home.  He left the residence that night taking personal items, cash and a handgun.  Smith made the statement that if the “cops” were called, someone would leave in a “coffin”.

The following morning, Smith’s wife filed for a Domestic Violence Injunction against Smith.  The order was signed that day.  A condition of the order required Smith to surrender all firearms to the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office.  Smith contacted his attorney, Michael Gates, and made arrangements to be served with the injunction on Sept. 22 at 8 a.m. at the attorney’s office in Shalimar.  On the evening of Sept. 21, Smith rented a hotel room at the Comfort Inn and Suites in Niceville.

Smith arrived on time at attorney Gates’ office at around 8 a.m. on Sept. 22.  Gates’ office personnel made contact with the sheriff’s office for the injunction to be served at the law

Deputy William "Bill" Myers

Deputy William “Bill” Myers

office.  Myers was on duty as a civil process officer and was sent to the Gates law office to serve the injunction on Smith.  He parked his marked patrol car near the front door next to Smith’s vehicle.  Myers met with Smith in the lobby of the office and explained the injunction, including the provision about surrendering his firearms.  Smith advised that the firearms were in his vehicle outside.  Myers served the injunction and started out the front door of the office with Smith behind him to collect the firearms.  Smith stood up and said, “My life is over” and pulled out a handgun from under his clothing.  He fired two shots at Myers as he stepped out the doorway.  Smith moved to the doorway and fired two more shots.  Myers was struck twice; one round struck Myers in the back and the bullet lodged in Myers’ body armor.  The second round struck Myers in the back of the head, and he collapsed in the parking lot next to his patrol car.  He was pronounced dead later that afternoon.

Smith exited the law office and left the scene in his vehicle.  Witnesses were able to obtain the description and license plate numbers as he fled.  Smith drove to the Comfort Inn and Suites in Niceville and barricaded himself in the room he had rented the night before.  A standoff ensued.

Negotiations with Smith continued for over an hour, making all efforts to try to get him to surrender peacefully.  During calls with many people, including family members, Smith made the statements:

  • “I am going to kill myself”
  • “my life is over”
  • “I’m not going to go to jail”
  • “All I really want is for you all to kill me.  I’m not going to kill myself, I’m more into you all shooting me.”
  • “I’m not gong to kill myself, I’m going to force the officers to kill me”

Several attempts were made to end the negotiations peacefully.  The Sheriff’s Office made the decision to deploy tear gas into Smith’s room and force him to come out of the hotel.  The tear gas was deployed and Smith started to exit the hotel room.  He was given numerous commands by deputies to put his hands up.  He started out the door of the hotel room and holding a handgun he began to raise the gun in the direction of the officers outside the hotel room.  The officers fired at Smith and struck him multiple times and were the cause of his death according to the autopsy performed by the medical examiner.

The Florida Statutes provides for the use of any force necessary by a law enforcement officer to defend himself or another from bodily harm.  Smith raising his weapon and pointing it toward the deputies put the officers in danger and they feared for their lives.  Therefore the conclusion of the investigation was that the use of deadly force in this case was justified.  The actions and choices Smith made on that day ultimately led to his death.  No criminal charges will be filed against the deputies.

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