Two Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office members involved in the Monday shooting of citizen George Lyman Smith were named in a press conference Thursday.
Deputy Austin Oskey fired the shots that killed Smith, while Cpl. Deryk Alexander used a less lethal weapon.
Three different 911 callers reported Smith driving the wrong way on U.S. 41, before the last caller followed him into a McDonald’s parking lot in Charlotte Harbor. She spoke with Smith and relayed information to dispatchers, who in turn gave the information to responding deputies. In the recorded call, Smith said if deputies didn’t “take him out,” he would “take them out.”
Oskey was the first deputy on scene, and he attempted to give verbal commands to Smith, asking him to drop the gun, but Smith refused.
Cpl. Deryk Alexander then approached with a shield team and a less lethal shotgun.
“Mr. Smith at that point was holding the rifle downward, so [Alexander] felt he had an opportunity to use the less lethal (rounds),” Sheriff Bill Prummell said Thursday. “He fired three shots from a distance of approximately 72 feet.”
The bean bag rounds had a limited effect on Smith, who then raised the rifle to take aim, Prummell said.
“Deputy Austin Oskey, who was at a different angle at the back of the vehicle... he fired four rounds striking Mr. Smith,” Prummell said. “One round went through his hand and three rounds hit him in the back.”
Smith originally told the 911 caller he had an AK-47 rifle, but the gun was later determined to be a .22 caliber rifle. Still, Prummell said the gun was loaded and dangerous.
“The firearm was loaded with .22 mag ammunition, and from that distance, those rounds could have easily penetrated the ballistic vests of deputies,” he said.
Oskey and Alexander are both former military members, and neither has a disciplinary record, according to the sheriff’s statements Thursday. Alexander has been with CCSO since 1998, while Oskey came on board in 2017. Neither has fired their weapon before on duty, the sheriff stated.
Placed on leave after the incident, Alexander will be returning to work today, while Oskey may be back next week on modified duties.
Prummell stated of the 10 deputies who responded to the incident, all but two had been through Critical Incident Training, which aims to help deputies understand how to better communicate with individuals suffering a mental health crisis.
“Lots of times, traditionally as law enforcement, we’ll go to a scene, and we’re giving commands out, and they don’t necessarily listen to us,” Prummell said. “And it’s not because they don’t want to listen to us ... There’s so much going on in their head that they just don’t hear us. So this training, when they’re able to, when it’s safe to do so, they can step back and they can try to make that communication. Things happened here so rapidly, they tried for a few minutes, but things unraveled very quickly, and unfortunately a man lost his life.”
Smith had no prior criminal history and no ties to Charlotte County that CCSO has discovered.
“The only thing we have right now is that he was potentially suicidal, and he was looking for somebody to help him out with that,” Prummell said. “Unfortunately he chose our agency.”
Smith lived at Craig’s RV Park, located on Cubitis Avenue in Arcadia, with his wife. Owner Vicky Wickey said from her knowledge of Smith, the incident was something she never would have expected.
“No matter what the circumstances are, it’s a tragedy,” she said. “It’s not who he was at all. Something was wrong or something went wrong that day. No one knows what he was thinking or will ever know what he was thinking. It wasn’t who he is.”