Detroit — Two sides emerged Monday in the story of a lurid domestic shooting involving a state senator with longtime family connections to the the halls of power in Detroit and Lansing.
State Sen. Virgil Smith told police that opening fire at his ex-wife’s Mercedes-Benz with a rifle early Sunday morning was “the most stupid thing” in his life.
His ex-wife says she was met by a naked Smith at the front door of his home in the 18000 block of Wexford on the city’s east side and he beat her with his fists, chased her outside and shot at her four or five times as well as firing at her car.
The son of Chief Wayne County Circuit Judge Virgil Smith was being held by Detroit Police as they continue their investigation. Police Chief James Craig said police anticipated charges of aggravated assault with a gun and malicious destruction of property against Smith.
However, the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office on Monday said prosecutors asked “the Detroit Police Department (for) further investigation” before deciding on charges.
His political influence, after serving three two-year terms in the state House and now in his second four-year term in the state Senate, could be in jeopardy.
Angela Wittrock, a spokeswoman for the Senate Democratic caucus, said Smith’s colleagues are “deeply troubled by these allegations.”
“As details of the situation become clearer, we will take appropriate action,” she said Monday.
If he is convicted of the crimes he’s accused of, it wouldn’t necessarily lead to removal from office despite a state law meant to give lawmakers an option to remove a colleague who breaches the public’s trust.
Smith also has two impaired driving offenses in the past 10 years.
In a statement Smith gave to investigators, he said his ex-wife, whose name is being withheld by The Detroit News, “was banging on (the) bedroom window,” at about 1 a.m., a Detroit Police report said. Smith said he opened the front door, and his ex-wife, “kicked the door open and pushed (past) him.
“(The ex-wife) went into (Smith’s) bedroom and observed a female ... in (Smith’s) bed. (Smith) stated that (the ex-wife) attempted to attack (the girlfriend),” the police report obtained by The News said. “(Smith) grabbed (his ex-wife), they fell backwards, knocking over the television. (Smith) stated that (his ex-wife) attempted to attack (his girlfriend) again.”
Smith told police “he grabbed (his ex-wife) and forced her out of his house,” the police report said. Smith then told investigators he went back into the bedroom to check on his girlfriend, and then returned to the front door, “and observed (his ex-wife) throwing a chair at his house windows.
“(Smith) then stated he did the most stupid thing in his life, he shot (the ex-wife’s) vehicle,” the report said.
After Smith was taken into police custody, he was asked several questions, “and was advised by his attorney not to answer them,” the report said. He was originally arrested for assault with intent to commit murder and aggravated assault, according to the police report.
Smith’s attorney, Godfrey Dillard, did not return phone calls.
Ex-wife offers account
A second police report, containing the ex-wife’s side of the story, was taken by police at 4:41 a.m. Sunday.
She said Smith had invited her to stay the night at his house, and, when she arrived, “she was met by a naked (Smith) and an (unknown) female,” the report said. “At this time she became angry and upset, and both started verbally arguing.
“At some point during the argument (Smith) grabbed her by the back of her head and shoved her face first into the carpet. Victim stood up and was struck by (Smith) 4-5 (times) in the face with closed fist causing cheeks on both sides of her face to swell.”
Smith’s ex-wife told police she ran out the front door, and he chased her with “an (unknown) type long gun and followed behind. She observed muzzle flash (three times) as suspect began firing at her,” the report said.
The ex-wife said she ran into a nearby alley as Smith fired the rifle. She said she went into the nearby home of a friend, “who allowed her to call 911 and clean her wounds.”
The friend later tried to retrieve the ex-wife’s 2015 Mercedes Benz GLA250, but that it was “unable to start due to gunshot damage,” the report said.
Evidence technicians later found three suspected bullet holes in the vehicle’s hood; two in the driver’s side headlight; two in the driver’s side front fender; and one each in the driver’s side door, windshield, and rear driver’s door pillar, the report said.
Police said a rifle of undisclosed make and model was recovered from the home, according to the report. They called it an automatic weapon, but that could not be confirmed.
Smith filed for divorce in 2009, and the marriage was annulled, according to court records. The couple has no children, according to the filing.
Craig: No special treatment
Craig said Smith has been treated no differently than any other suspect.
“We interviewed him and subsequently placed him under arrest,” Craig said during an impromptu press conference at Cobo Center, where he was scheduled to speak at a conference about police and community trust. “At this point, he is still in custody.”
Smith’s father, Judge Smith, had no comment Monday on the allegations.
Craig said the senator has been cooperative. “We do know there were shots fired,” he said. “However, I cannot and will not say they were fired by the senator.”
A spokesman for the senator did not respond to telephone calls and emails Sunday and Monday.
Smith represents the 4th Senate District, from the city’s north side, south to Allen Park, Lincoln Park and Southgate. He was re-elected in 2014 to a second four-year term after defeating former state Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Detroit in a hard-fought Democratic primary. He previously served three terms in the Michigan House, following his father into politics.
In 2000, he had an arrest for minor in possession of alcohol, according to Secretary of State spokesman Fred Woodhams. In February 2004, he had an operating while impaired by liquor offense; in August of that year, he faced an operating while intoxicated offense. His license was revoked in 2004, Woodhams said. It was fully reinstated in December 2008.
He has no points on his record.
A spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof said Monday the Republican leader is not exploring any kind of disciplinary actions against Smith.
“I think it’s a little too early to be going down that path,” Meekhof spokeswoman Amber McCann said.”
A 2010 voter-approved constitutional amendment only prohibits someone convicted of a “felony involving dishonesty, deceit, fraud, or a breach of the public trust” from serving if the crime “was related to the person’s official capacity while the person was holding any elective office.”
Sunday’s incident “doesn’t meet dishonesty, deceit, fraud or breaching the public trust and is certainly not related to his job as a state senator,” former Attorney General Mike Cox said of any possible charges for Smith.
There is precedent for legislators to expel a duly elected colleague.
In May 2001, the Michigan Senate expelled Macomb County Sen. David Jaye for misconduct, including a series of drunken driving arrests, alleged abuse of Senate employees, soft pornography on his state-issued laptop computer and a question of domestic abuse.
Thirty-three of the 38 senators voted to expel Jaye from the Senate that year, seven more than were needed.
Staff Writers Chad Livengood, Oralandar Brand-Williams and Lauren Abdel-Razzaq contributed.