Prayer sustains officer
“In the name of Jesus, you will live and not die.”
Those are the words Estill police officer Quincy Smith heard after being shot while on duty on January 1, 2016. The prayer was said by a cousin, who rushed to the scene after hearing about the shooting on her police scanner.
Smith recounted that day for students at the Barnwell County Career Center on Thursday, August 24.
He woke up, prayed and headed to the police department before starting his shift. He learned there were no major incidents the night before.
“Everything felt the same,” said the 27-year-old Hampton native.
It seemed like a typical day; however, Smith would soon realize that wasn’t going to be the case.
Smith, who was the only Estill officer on duty that day, was dispatched to a liquor store for a complaint of someone harassing customers and trying to steal items. Upon arrival, a store employee pointed out the suspect who was walking away from the store.
Smith drove his patrol car to where the suspect was and ordered him to stop. He issued approximately 13 warnings to stop and turn around, but the suspect kept walking with his right hand in the pocket of his camouflage hunting jacket.
With his taser drawn, Smith gave one last warning. The suspect then turned and pulled a 9 mm handgun, which he used to fire eight rounds at Smith. Three bullets struck the officer.
“Shots fired! Dispatch I’m hit! Dispatch I’m hit! Help!” yelled Smith into his radio after the shooting. Those chilling words are part of a video of the shooting and the aftermath that were recorded by a $30 pair of body camera glasses Smith purchased online.
“It’s the best $30 I’ve ever spent,” he said.
The video, which can be viewed on YouTube and the 14th Circuit Solicitor Office’s website, was a key piece of evidence that led to the conviction of Malcolm Orr on August 9 – more than 18 months after he shot Smith. Orr was sentenced to 30 years for attempted murder and five years for possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime.
The video has “gone viral” on social media and captured national attention.
Smith suffered serious injuries, including shattered bones in his left arm from one bullet. Another bullet severed a vein in his neck, but missed a major artery by millimeters. He also had severe nerve damage in his upper right back.
“I was in severe pain,” said Smith, who has experienced trouble sleeping, nightmares, anger and paranoia since the shooting.
In addition to the paramedics, firefighters and doctors, Smith credits God with saving his life.
“I don’t know if y’all believe in anything – believe in God – but I’m telling you, believe in something because there is a higher being. I’m not supposed to be here right now,” said Smith to the career center students. He credits his cousin’s prayer as one reason he lived.
Now, more than a year and a half after the shooting, Smith is anxious to get back to serving his community. He was recently cleared by the doctor, but is waiting for the all-clear from his department.
He loves law enforcement because he loves helping people and interacting with them, including by playing basketball with children to build bridges between law enforcement and the community, said Smith, whose mother is a retired New York City police officer.
“I’m at peace with everything,” he said, especially since he survived and Orr is in jail. His family and friends also played a crucial role in his recovery.
Looking back at New Year’s Day 2016, Smith said there are some things he could have done differently that may have produced a different outcome. For example, he said he gave Orr too many chances to stop and didn’t give enough “reactionary gap” between himself and Orr.
While Smith saw the worst of one person the day of his shooting, he also saw how people rallied around him. Estill resident Jay Tompkins, who witnessed the incident, rushed to help Smith and stayed with him until first responders arrived. He’s also received a lot of support from the community, which is usually not supportive of law enforcement.
“I have a lot more faith in people and the community,” he said.
Tony Littles, the criminal justice instructor at the career center, said he lives by a motto in his classroom: “I will not lose.” He wanted Smith to speak to the students because his story exemplifies that motto. He also hopes his students gained a “better understanding of the criminal justice system and how it works.”
“I learned to always be prepared for the worst because it could happen, but to hope for the best,” said criminal justice student Bilaysia DeLoach, who attends Blackville-Hilda High School.