Arlington officer died trying to protect child, police say

Editor's note: This report has been updated from the original to correct that Barnes Samuel Nettles was arrested in September on warrants accusing him of assaulting Kimberly Carter's sister and mother, not Carter.

ARLINGTON -- A rookie police officer was fatally shot as she apparently tried to protect an 11-year-old from an armed man who burst into an apartment as the officer was taking a domestic assault report, police officials said Wednesday.

Jillian Michelle Smith, 24, an Arlington native, was killed Tuesday night within 20 minutes of responding to a lower priority call from a woman who wanted to report the assault, officials said.

The assault suspect had left the apartment but returned while Smith was inside taking the report, Arlington police spokeswoman Tiara Ellis Richard said at a news conference Wednesday.

Also killed were Kimberly Deshay Carter, 29, and her ex-boyfriend, Barnes Samuel Nettles, 38.

After shooting Smith, Nettles apparently went into a back bedroom and shot Carter, Richard said.

He then returned to the living room and shot himself, Richard said. In the meantime, the child, identified as Carter's daughter, fled.

Richard said that the description of what likely happened inside the apartment was based on a preliminary investigation and that the order of events would be pinned down more specifically after reports by the medical examiner, ballistics and other information.

In Mobile, Ala., Nettles' relatives called the shooting a selfish act and said they didn't realize that Nettles and Carter were still in contact.

"We are at a loss right now. We're just sorry for the relatives of both victims. It was selfish,” said Nettles' cousin Andrew Johnson.

In September, Nettles was arrested in Arlington and charged with assaulting Carter's mother and sister, Richard said. Court documents show that he was free on $5,000 bond.

He was a registered sex offender in Arlington for an offense that occurred in Washington state, Richard said.

"Last we heard, they weren't together anymore,” Johnson said. “We didn't know they had problems.”

Smith, the second Arlington officer to die in the line of duty this year, joined the department in February and graduated from the Arlington Police Academy in August. She completed her field training Dec. 13, said Richard, the police spokeswoman.

Officials said it is not unusual for a lone officer to respond to a Priority 3 call.

Early Wednesday, officials removed bodies from the unit at the Arbrook Park apartments, near Interstate 20 and Collins Street. Shortly before 9 a.m., officers pulled down the crime scene tape and left the area without commenting.

The incident began when Smith responded to a call about a domestic assault at the complex, which is in the 4600 block of Nandina Drive, Richard said.

Within 20 minutes, police received a 911 call about a shooting.

"When they responded, they discovered there were three deceased inside the apartment," Richard said. "One of these was the officer who had responded earlier."

Officers could be seen searching people and cars as they left the complex in the pouring rain late Tuesday.

Nettles recently moved from Washington state to Arlington for work, his cousin Kim Nettles said. His four sons from a previous marriage were staying with their grandmother in Washington during the school holiday, Kim Nettles said.

“It is so shocking to us. Everything seemed OK. You never know what is going on inside, though,” she said.

On Wednesday morning, two neighbors at the apartment complex said that they were stunned not only by the violence, but by the fact that they never heard gunshots.

Jacob Peters, who lives on the second floor of the unit, said he was listening to music Tuesday night when he heard voices arguing.

"It sounded like a man and a woman's voice," Peters said. "Then I heard footsteps like kids playing and running up and down the stairs. I almost opened my door and told them to cool it."

About an hour later, police knocked on his door and asked if he heard any gunshots, he said.

"They said an officer was shot and killed," he said. "I couldn't believe it."

According to court documents, local defense attorney Abe Factor was appointed to represent Nettles in September after he indicated he could not afford a lawyer.

Nettles stated in court documents that he was an unemployed sheet metal worker, who was supporting himself and three sons, ages 18, 14 and 11.

He listed his gross monthly income as $1,340 from "odd jobs" and stated that he also received food stamps, and Medicaid and had filed for (child) support.

Arlington police said that Smith became interested in police work in the sixth grade while participating in the DARE program.

A 2005 graduate of Seguin High School, Smith received a bachelor's degree in criminology from the University of Texas at Arlington in August 2009, Richard said.

Smith is the eighth Arlington officer to die in the line of duty in the department's history.

In January, Arlington officer Craig Story died when his police motorcycle and a school bus collided during a traffic stop on South Cooper Street. The 34-year-old officer's motorcycle caught fire in the crash.

Arlington police Sgt. Dace Clifton said: "Anytime an officer is lost in the line of duty, it's difficult. We do have a strong police family. Police officers know the job they do is dangerous. They come together to support each other in times like this."

Arlington Mayor Robert Cluck said Tuesday night that he learned of the fatal shooting from Police Chief Theron Bowman.

"He said, 'I've got some bad news,'" Cluck said. "An officer has been killed."

"Do you know him?" Cluck asked. "It's not a him. It's a her" was the chief's reply, Cluck said.

"Domestic violence is the most dangerous thing for a police officer to intervene," Cluck said. "Everybody's angry and fighting. I suspect the officer didn't know what she was getting into."

Susan Schrock, 817-390-7639

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