ARLINGTON, Texas – A rookie police officer responding to a domestic violence call in suburban Dallas was shot to death trying to protect an 11-year-old girl from her mother's gun-wielding ex-boyfriend, a department spokeswoman said Wednesday.
Tiara Ellis Richard said Arlington officer Jillian Michelle Smith, 24, was shot by Barnes Samuel Nettles on Tuesday night as she sought to shield the girl from the 38-year-old man after he entered the apartment of Kimberly Deshay Carter, 29. After shooting Smith, Nettles shot Carter to death in a back bedroom, then returned to the living room, where he killed himself, Richard said.
"It appears (Smith) was moving in the direction of the child in an effort to protect her and, in that process, she was shot," Richard said, citing the girl's statement and forensic evidence.
According to Richard, Smith was shot about 20 minutes after arriving at the apartment. Nettles had left the apartment but returned while Smith was there taking the report, she said.
It's unclear who reported the shootings to police, Richard said. The 11-year-old girl was unharmed and staying with relatives, the spokeswoman said.
Arlington police officials said Smith, who had been an officer since February, was responding to a routine domestic violence call that didn't include an indication that Nettles was in the area or had a gun. Under those circumstances, the call required only one officer, the officials said.
"From what we know, that type of call would be a low priority," Chief Theron Bowman said.
Nettles was arrested by Arlington police in September for allegedly assaulting Carter's sister and her mother, Richard said. He was out on $5,000 bail, and his case was still pending, she said.
The arrest warrant affidavit said the alleged assaults were precipitated by Carter's mother refusing to allow her daughter to date Nettles after learning he was a registered sex offender.
According to the affidavit, Carter's mother claimed Nettles tried to choke her and throw her over a railing. She said Nettles threatened to kill her and her husband.
The affidavit, prepared by an Arlington police detective on Sept. 16, said Nettles had convictions for rape of a child, domestic violence, burglary, failure to register as a sex offender and possession of a firearm.
Richard said Nettles registered as a sex offender in Arlington in August for an offense that occurred in Washington state.
Police also investigated a report from Carter in August that Nettles had made harassing phone calls, Richard said. That inquiry did not result in criminal charges.
Smith was an Arlington native who graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington with a criminology degree in 2009. Her interest in police work began at an early age when she participated in an anti-drug program for public school children.
"The only reason she was a police officer — the only reason she was in that house — was to help people," said Robert Cluck, mayor of the city of 370,000 between Dallas and Fort Worth.
Smith is the eighth Arlington police officer killed while on duty and the second this year.
"This has been a very, very tragic year," Bowman said.