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August 27, 2015

Chester County DA rules courthouse shooting justified

Shootings Investigations
Chester County attacker Contributed Art/Chester County District Attorney's office

Authorities say Curtis Smith (pictured) used a knife to attack sheriff's deputies during an incident at the Chester County Justice Center on Tuesday.

The man who was shot dead Tuesday after slashing a deputy sheriff with a knife inside the Chester County Justice Center did not target either deputy sheriff involved in the incident, Chester County District Attorney Thomas Hogan announced Thursday.

Hogan released the findings of his office's investigation into the incident, in which Curtis Smith was shot dead by a deputy sheriff after an incident around 11:49 a.m. The findings also provide a more detailed look at Smith, who was arrested in March after scaling the White House fence.

Smith, 34, of Coatesville, allegedly shouted "Let's do this s---!" at a pair of deputy sheriffs stationed at the security entrance, investigators say. He then allegedly brandished a folding knife and slashed Kevin Brough, the nearest deputy sheriff. An unidentified second deputy sheriff fired his gun three times, striking Smith twice in the torso, investigators say.

Hogan said the attack appears to have been random.

"Neither of the two deputy sheriffs knew Smith or had any known prior contact with Smith," Hogan wrote in a findings document. "Deputy sheriffs are rotated, so Smith could not have known which deputy sheriff would be on duty or where they would be stationed."

The Chester County District Attorney's Office ruled the shooting justified. In such cases, the DA's Office does not release the name of the shooter.

Brough, the deputy sheriff injured in the attack, is in stable condition after receiving treatment to the injuries on his hand. Operating surgeons determined the wound was caused by one of the shots fired by the other deputy.

Smith's knife had slashed through the back of Brough's uniform but was stopped by his ballistic vest, investigators say.

"My fellow deputy sheriff not only saved my life in this tragic event but also potentially the lives of many other citizens who were in the Justice Center," Brough said in a statement. "I consider my colleague to be a hero for the actions he took and the people he protected."

Smith spent the morning with family members, who told investigators Smith was deeply religious and "generally seemed normal" on the day of the shooting. However, Smith sped away from the house in his car for an unknown reason, family members told investigators.

In March, Smith had hopped the White House fence, an act one family member told investigators was a so-called "suicide-by-cop" attempt.

That runs counter to a description his defense attorney, Martin Rosendorf, gave PhillyVoice following the shooting. Rosendorf, who was representing Smith in his federal case for jumping the White House fence, said Smith "seemed like a nice man" and "wasn't a wacko or anything."

"He was remorseful about what he was doing," Rosendorf said. "He was normal, as far as I could see. But you never know what is going on in the back of their minds."

Smith was unemployed and experiencing domestic issues, investigators say. His wife had filed a Protection From Abuse order against him. In May, he had been charged with burglary and simple assault.

His family also had a troubled past.

Smith's brother, Derek Smith, pleaded guilty in 2013 to murdering their father in a shooting incident in Caln Township. Defense counsel raised a number of mental health issues regarding Derek Smith, who was sentenced to 15 to 30 years in prison.

Following the incident Tuesday, the Justice Center was placed on lockdown. The Chester County Sheriff's Office handled security issues.

The Chester County detectives handled the investigation, which included interviews of the two deputy sheriffs, potential witnesses and a detailed review of video surveillance recording the shooting. A forensic analysis also was conducted.