Veteran killed in deputy-involved shooting after comments in suicide prevention chat room

Ronald Smith seen in a photo from when he was in the Army (courtesy Smith family)

A man is dead after a shooting involving Pickaway County Deputies. It happened overnight in the small community of Five Points, north of Circleville. Pickaway County Sheriff Robert Radcliff and family members identify the man as Ronald Smith.

The Sheriffs Office isn't releasing many details, but say two deputies responded to the home around 1:20am Tuesday after getting notice from Veterans Administration suicide prevention hotline. Sheriff Radcliff says Smith was in an online chat for veterans when he made a statement that "concerned" them but wouldn't elaborate.

Deputies say when they got to the home, they were confronted by a man outside with a long rifle. Negotiators were called in but the confrontation escalated before they got there, leading to at least one deputy opening fire. The Sheriff's Office has not yet said what led to the deputy opening fire, and wouldn't confirm how many shots were fired.

Investigators say the man's wife and two children, believed to be 10 and 14 years old, were home at the time. Family members say Smith served in the Army and served during Operation Desert Storm in Iraq. They say after the Army, he enlisted in the Air National Guard for four years. Neighbors say Smith was a kind man who would help whenever they needed, and they wished they could have helped him.

Sheriff Radcliff said both of his deputies who responded to the veteran with a long rifle are US military veterans themselves. Radcliff said both deputies are also veterans of law enforcement.

Radcliff called the deputy-involved fatal shooting tragic.

"We had not had any previous calls there. It is not like we had a history at the residence where we had been there for situations with this individual before."

Family said they want answers as to why negotiators or a crisis team was not sent to handle Ronald Smith instead of armed deputies.

"If the public only knew how often law enforcement deals with these situations. They usually come out quite different than they did last night. But we are seeing more and more and I am sure that it is not unique to Pickaway County," said Radcliff. "We have to as a community work on these issues and come up with solutions."

State BCI agents are at the scene working to collect evidence, and the Franklin County Sheriff's Office is assisting with the investigation. Both deputies involved are on paid administrative leave, which is standard in officer-involved shootings.

We will update this story as more information becomes available

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