Houston & Peach

Candlelight vigil tonight for man shot by Warner Robins police

WARNER ROBINS — A candlelight vigil for a Fort Valley man shot and killed by Warner Robins police is expected to be held tonight outside City Hall, a family member says.

Reginald Bernard Smith, 27, died in the parking lot of the Waffle House at 1287 S. Houston Lake Road after he was shot multiple times by two Warner Robins police officers responding to a large fight at the restaurant at 2:18 a.m. on Feb. 6. Smith had a gun and was described by police as an “active shooter.”

Family and friends are holding the vigil at City Hall at 700 Watson Blvd. to honor Smith’s memory, said his mother, Elouise Smith.

The 7:30 p.m. vigil, which is open to the public, is expected to be spiritual in nature, Smith said. She said the family received permission from the mayor to hold the vigil.

The shooting, which is the subject of both a criminal investigation and a separate internal investigation into the use of deadly force, stemmed from a fight inside the restaurant in which a gun was pulled before the altercation moved outside, police said.

Warner Robins police Maj. John Wagner said today that the findings of the internal investigation are being turned over to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation for review.

He declined to release the findings pending review by the GBI and an expected review by a Houston County grand jury.

The GBI has been contacted by Warner Robins police and will review their investigative file as requested, said Gary Rothwell, special agent in charge of the Perry office.

Houston County District Attorney Kelly Burke said he plans to present the Warner Robins police findings Tuesday to a Houston County grand jury. The prosecutor said he believes a panel of citizens should review any officer involved shooting but that the review is not the same as an indictment.

After it has finished the review, the grand jury has a range of potential findings — including that the officers were justified in the shooting, or that there was a training issue or that criminal charges are warranted, Burke said.

Mayor Donald Walker said he could not comment because the shooting remains under investigation. Walker, who is recovering from foot surgery from an injury several years ago, said he was uncertain whether he would be able to attend the vigil.

Elouise Smith had originally requested that the vigil be held outside the Waffle House but Walker said he only had authority to grant permission for a vigil outside City Hall.

The vigil is expected to last about 30 to 45 minutes, Smith said.

To contact Becky Purser, call 923-3109, ext. 243.