Knife-wielding man shot by police in Columbia BJ's receives prison sentence

A Columbia man shot by a Howard County police officer after pulling a knife inside a BJ's Wholesale Club last summer pleaded guilty in Howard County Circuit Court Wednesday and was sentenced to three years in prison.

Howard Carvel Smith, 33, of Harper's Farm Road, pleaded guilty to second-degree assault and reckless endangerment charges and was sentenced by Judge Richard Bernhardt to 10 years with all but three years suspended.

The sentence begins June 4. Smith will not get credit for the 323 days he has already served since being charged in July 2013, according to county State's Attorney spokesman Wayne Kirwan. 

The incident began at approximately 11 a.m. July 10 when Smith pulled a knife on a BJ's security officer after being stopped for allegedly shoplifting. Smith was shot moments later by a police officer in BJ's Tire Center and was transferred to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center.

According to the Howard County Sheriff's Office, a warrant was out for Smith's arrest during the time of the incident relating to an August 2012 assault case. The warrant, which was issued on May 2, was for failing to appear in court.

Kirwan said Smith apologized to the community and the store security officer in court Wednesday, and cited the outstanding warrant as the reason for his actions.

Judge Bernhardt, in pronouncing the sentence, said that the warrant is "never, never, never" a reason to pull a knife, according to Kirwan.

"All I’ve heard is that you didn’t want to be taken into custody. That doesn’t justify it,” Bernhardt said. 

According to the statement of facts in the case, Smith and two friends met outside BJ's Wholesale Club in the 9000 block of Snowden River Parkway at approximately 11 a.m.

A store security officer, referred to as a loss-prevention officer, told authorities he saw Smith enter the store and walk into a bathroom with a pair of white shorts, according to the facts. 

The officer said he then saw Smith come out of the bathroom without the shorts and confronted him, according to  the facts. The officer said Smith told him he left the shorts in the bathroom but then said he put the shorts on underneath his clothing, according to the facts.

The officer, while escorting Smith to the loss-prevention office, said Smith left the shorts on a cart and ran for the door before being detained by the officer and another BJ's employee, according to the facts. 

After bringing Smith to the office, the officer said the defendant "became agitated," and pulled a knife, allegedly stating, "C'mon ... let's do this right now, my brother got a .380 and we'll take care of you," according to the facts.

The officer said he let Smith leave to ensure the safety of shoppers and employees and then he and two other security officers followed Smith, who held a knife in one hand and stick in the other, as he walked around the outside of the store, according to the facts.

Smith attempted to get on a bus, but the bus driver, at the direction of the security officers, did not open the doors to the bus, according to the facts. At this time, Howard County police officers, responding to the original shoplifting call, arrived, according to the facts.

The facts state that one officer drew his weapon and repeatedly told Smith to drop the knife. The facts state Smith placed the knife at his own throat and began walking over to the Tire Center at BJ's. Smith then ran toward the lobby of the Tire Center, where the officer believed he could be a danger to others, the facts state.

The officer fired his gun three to four times, striking Smith in the head and chest, according to the facts. According to Smith's defense attorney, he was hospitalized for two months, Kirwan said.

As part of the sentence, Smith must serve a five-year supervised probation period after his release. He also must receive a drug and alcohol evaluation and treatment, a psychological evaluation and treatment, not return to BJ’s Wholesale Club or contact any of its employees or other witnesses in the case, and make restitution to the transit company for damage to the bus.

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