The Herald Bulletin

August 28, 2013

Man killed by single gunshot; police want community cooperation

By Jack Molitor
The Herald Bulletin

---- — ANDERSON — A poster-sized card was placed Wednesday against the screen door of a home where a 34-year-old Anderson man had been shot and killed late Tuesday night.

The card expressed farewell messages for Robert Deon Smoots, whose body was found outside the house around 11:30 p.m. Tuesday in the 1200 block of West 15th Street.

Anderson Police said Smoots had been shot once in the chest. The shooting happened in front of the home, and police received a call shortly after from someone who heard the shots.

Smoots died shortly after at St. Vincent Anderson Regional Hospital. According to Madison County Coroner Marian Dunnichay, Smoots died from blood loss. Police were unsure Wednesday what type of gun was used. No suspects had been identified.

On the card were kind words and farewell messages to the victim, referred to as Deon in most of the notes. A Sharpie pen rested on the mail slot by the door in case anyone wanted to leave a final word for the man. No one answered several knocks and rings at the door.

Smoots' address is listed in the 1700 block of Arrow Street, but he was at the home Tuesday night to see a friend who lives at the location, according to Anderson Police Department spokesman Joel Sandefur.

"We've talked to a few witnesses. We have some ideas as to who it could've been," Sandefur said.

But to really move the investigation forward, Sandefur said police need someone to come forward with information.

"Someone knows something. And they can remain anonymous if they want to leave a tip. Calls to our Crime Stopper line are not traced, and it's a very easy service to use. We see this happen way too much," Sandefur said.

Unfortunately, a large reason for the silence from the community in cases like this is mistrust of police, said APD Sgt. William Casey. There is often reluctance to approach law enforcement regarding similar cases.

"You take [the Smoots shooting] for instance. That night, the hospital was full of people who were there for him. But nobody came forward to tell us what happened," Casey said.

Madison County Prosecutor Rodney Cummings agreed.

"It's sort of a cultural evolution that's been accepted by a lot of people: don't talk to police. People will talk, eventually. A lot of times it comes out slowly and it's very secretive. The information might also come in through informal ways," Cummings said. "I'm very frustrated with it."

The prosecutor stressed the need to hold criminals accountable by sharing information with police. According to him, a lot of people might fear being the next victim by coming forward, but he assured that has never happened during his career in law enforcement and prosecution.

Casey said that while he understands the reluctance to talk to police but that can hinder an investigation.

"It's kind of crazy. It's like having a prison in your own community," he said.

Casey said it's important for young people at the greatest risk to take charge and make their neighborhoods safer.

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If anyone has information about the shooting, they are asked to call Crime Stoppers at 765-649-8310.