The East Side home where a St. Paul man was fatally shot by police Thursday was visited frequently by authorities in the days leading up to his death, while friends said he was struggling with drugs and feared going to jail.
Eugene Francis Smith, 29, was fatally shot about 2:15 p.m. after several officers entered a home in the 2100 block of Minnehaha Avenue E. “as part of an active investigation,” according to a statement released Friday by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA).
The BCA, which is investigating the shooting, said one officer shot and killed a pit bull that charged them in the living room. The officers then entered a first-floor bedroom and Smith “immediately” fired at them. Officer Joshua Raichert fired back, killing Smith.
No officers were injured.
Raichert, a 10-year veteran of the department, and the other officers are on administrative leave, standard in such cases. The BCA did not specify the number of officers at the scene.
Smith, whom friends called “Geno,” died of gunshot wounds, according to the BCA. No other details about the incident or the investigation that preceded it were released.
Friends said Smith was renting the house with some roommates. They described him as a generous, helpful person who was typically the voice of reason.
“He’d normally defuse situations, you know what I mean?” said his friend Nicholas Ryan. “He was a pretty levelheaded person.”
Mellisa Smith, who befriended Geno Smith but is not related, said Smith let her stay at his home when she had nowhere else to go.
“He’s just a really good guy, a big heart,” she said.
Geno Smith, originally from Chicago, previously worked as a cook at a restaurant in the east metro and had also worked in construction.
‘Messing around with stuff’
“He was just always working,” Mellisa Smith said. “I’m just at a loss for words.”
Ryan said he met Geno Smith when Smith moved to Oakdale from Chicago about five years ago “to get away from the life.”
“He just said he needed to get away from there because whatever,” Ryan said. “He wanted a better life for himself.
“We were like brothers since we first met.”
Geno Smith had been struggling with some personal difficulties recently, according to Ryan, and appeared depressed.
“He was just messing around with stuff he shouldn’t have,” Ryan said, acknowledging that it involved drugs. “He was just looking a little more wore out than normal.”
Police records show that authorities were at the address about 11 a.m. on May 11 and twice on May 17 — once at 5:45 a.m. for a warrant arrest when the person they were looking for was gone, and again at 7 a.m. A police report for the second visit on May 17 listed the case as “investigate — and all other,” and did not include any information about what police did or found at the scene.
Authorities were at the address at 3:50 p.m. on May 18 for a welfare check call. No report was written.
Police reports show that police were back at the house Thursday “on an investigation” when the shooting occurred. Authorities arrested Mark D. O’Brien, 23, of Mounds View, at the address on a Ramsey County felony warrant for a probation violation in a 2012 burglary case.
Police also arrested Jessee M. Miller, 20, of Maplewood, at the address Thursday on a misdemeanor warrant for disorderly conduct.
At a news briefing late Thursday afternoon, police declined to speak about the nature of the investigation that preceded the shooting and arrests.
One of Smith’s friends, who declined to be identified, said that Smith had few family members and was concerned about being sent to jail.
Jail time in Illinois
Ryan confirmed that Smith had been incarcerated in Illinois at one time.
Smith’s death was St. Paul’s second fatal officer-involved shooting of the year, and the 13th since 2010.
The BCA will forward the case to the Ramsey County attorney’s office for charging consideration when it completes the investigation.
Raichert was among four officers involved in the 2012 fatal shooting of Victor T. Gaddy, who was killed after he tried to ram squad cars during a drug stop.
Raichert was also involved in the 2010 fatal shooting of John Charles Carr. He was shot multiple times in a motel when police responded to a call of a suicidal man and were confronted in the hallway by Carr, who held a large utility knife in each hand and refused orders to drop them. Raichert and three other officers fired their weapons at Carr.
Officers were cleared in both of those fatal shootings.
Chao Xiong • 612-270-4708 Twitter: @ChaoStrib