Nine officers cleared in Bladen County fatal shooting

Possible hostage situation in Elizabethtown on Nov. 22, 2019 (Photo: WWAY)

BLADEN COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — No one will face charges in the November shooting of an armed suspect in Bladen County, according to a news release from the District Attorney’s Office.

On November 22, nine officers fired around 65 shots at Lance Edward Smith after an hours long standoff in Elizabethtown.

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Smith was hit six times and eventually died from his injuries.

After the shooting, the Bladen County Sheriff, Elizabethtown Police Chief and District Attorney asked the State Bureau of Investigation to review the shooting.

After the SBI investigation, the District Attorney’s Office determined that law enforcement’s use of deadly force was justified.

The investigation determined that just days before the shooting, a woman had taken out a Domestic Violence Protection Order against Smith.

The day of the shooting, Smith tracked the woman to a home on North Owen Street in Elizabethtown.

Smith took the woman from the home and held her at gunpoint in a vehicle near the end of North Owen Street shortly before 11:00 a.m.

Someone at the home called 911. Officers from the Elizabethtown Police Department responded and saw  Smith holding the woman at gunpoint inside of his vehicle.

After Smith refused the officers’ commands to put down the weapon and release the hostage a standoff ensued.

Members of the Bladen County Sheriff’s Office and the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office also responded to assist.

Smith held the hostage in his vehicle at gunpoint for nearly three hours while officers attempted to to get him to surrender.

During this time, Smith put the woman in front of his body, effectively using her body as a human shield, while continually putting the gun to her head and threatening to pull the trigger.

Shortly before 2:00 p.m., Smith released the woman from the vehicle unharmed.

At that time, law enforcement officers ordered Smith to put down his weapon. He ignored officers’ commands, got out of the vehicle, and fired multiple shots at the officers. The officers returned fire.

Following the shooting, Smith collapsed in front of a wooded area. He was airlifted to New Hanover Regional Medical Center. He died around 11:00 p.m.

The District Attorney said he recently met with Smith’s family to discuss his decision that no officer will be charged with any criminal offense. Additionally, the complete investigative file is available for inspection by the civil attorney of Smith’s family, should they choose to retain one.

“I am grateful for the skill and professionalism of all officers involved.” Said District Attorney Jon David. “Although the incident ultimately ended in the death of Mr. Smith, the outcome could have been far worse save for the heroic actions of the officers. The law enforcement officers on scene are to be commended for negotiating the peaceful surrender of the female hostage.”

Had Smith lived, he could have faced several criminal charges.