There are still unanswered questions about a shooting incident at the Bass Pro Shop in Spanish Fort, Alabama that happened on Saturday, September 5. The gunman, 38-year-old Robert Smith, Jr. fired multiple times into the store's boat and ATV area outside the store. Police still have not revealed a clear motive behind the incident that happened 11 days ago. Miraculously, no one inside the Bass Pro Shops was injured in the spray of gunfire.
According to the Spanish Fort Police Chief John Barber, one of the officers that responded to the scene was injured while taking one of the suspects into custody. He was treated for his injuries and later released.
Chief Barber said in an interview with WPMI, "I definitely believe our officers prevented what would have been a mass shooting incident. When they encountered Robert Smith, he had a bulletproof vest on from the pictures I've seen, he had several weapons on him. He had 3 AR rifle platforms, 1 AR pistol, a 9mm short rifle, a shotgun, and 2 pistols with several hundred rounds of ammunition for all the weapons. All of these weapons were recovered at the scene."
Smith was tasered by officers and taken into custody. He was sent to the hospital and treated for unrelated injuries. 10 additional guns and more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition were also found inside Robert Smith’s Grove Hill home the Spanish Fort Police Department stated.
Police investigators said that Smith wasn't alone. "There was a female that was with him. We interviewed her. At this point, she has been released. She has not been arrested for anything at this point in the investigation," Barber said.
An unexpected turn of events happened outside the Spanish Fort Police Department four days after the incident as reported by WKRG. On the sidewalk across from the Spanish Fort Police Department, Ray Artis stood for an hour with his sign and his message. ”Police officers aren’t getting rewarded when they do it right.”
Inside the building, officers told Chief John Barber he needed to see what was going on. “I looked outside and I saw Ray and I saw him holding the sign and I said wow, that’s unexpected and that’s a wonderful thing.”
The two men had never met, never had a conversation but for the next few minutes talked about the arrest of Robert Smith Jr. and the bigger conversation about police brutality. “We are all too often fixated on what goes wrong,” said Barber, “and this is a situation where it worked perfectly through the training, through their experience, and it needs the attention that it deserves for my officers.”
That’s what Artis recognized as he watched a clip of the story on TV the night before. “This thing ain’t broke. I don’t listen to the rhetoric. It’s not broke to the point that some people are saying. We just need to get together and understand that we need each other.”
Booking photo of Robert Smith Jr
The Baldwin County Jail log lists Smith’s charges as assault second degree, discharge of a firearm into an occupied dwelling or vehicle, reckless endangerment, and resisting arrest.
Eyewitness Bass Pro Shops employee Davis Marrero said employees saw the alleged gunman using two different weapons. “He was shooting two kinds of rifles: an AR-15 and what I’m told was an AR-10, which is also a .308 which is a more powerful round. He didn’t hit anything on top, but he shot through a window right here in the marine area. Luckily one of the guys who works in that area closed the door before he could get inside,” Marrero said.
WBRC interviewed family members and they say they haven’t spoken with Robert Smith Jr. since he was taken into custody. But they did talk about the weapons police say they confiscated, and a recent change in behavior.
Crystal Smith Wilson says Robert Smith, Junior, is her first cousin. She said Smith has no record and no history of violence at all, but, “Junior started to act just a little out of character the past week or so, and we did not know why, but we had absolutely no idea that it would come to this.” Wilson added, “We sincerely thank the police from Spanish Fort for the way that they handled things. We know that things could have gone so much worse.”
Smith’s brother, Parrish Manuel, talked about what went through his mind when he heard about the incident, “We want to know what happened within the last two weeks, two or three weeks. Me and him had been talking and, you know, I noticed something had changed, but I had never thought it was to the point where this would happen.”
And when asked to talk about what changed, Manuel said, “It was just the way he was talking. It seemed like, I don’t know, it wasn’t the Robert, Junior, we know, you know, the brother I know. It was just like something had, I don’t know, had taken over his mind, or...it’s hard to explain.”
When asked about the weapons and ammunition confiscated Manuel said, “Well, the assault rifles, yeah, but the other, the guns, you know, he’s a big hunter. We’re both hunters, you know. It’s a small country. We do that, we have guns, you know, but it’s just, I didn’t know it was to the extent it was.”
WPMI reported that his cousin and a neighbor also noticed something was off with Smith who was dealing with the loss of his mother and caring for his elderly father. His cousin, Reverend Al Smith remembers a conversation, "We think that he started acting a little different maybe a week or so ago. I talked with him two or three days ago and he wasn’t acting just like himself. I remember telling him I said, 'Cuz take it easy. It’s gonna be all right,' and he said to me he said, 'I love you but people just don’t understand'."
A neighbor said Robert had been riding around the neighborhood on a four-wheeler carrying one of his guns. "He has been acting strangely for about three weeks or more over there talking to himself acting kind of weird. So I’ve been kind of watching him from over here", Richard Burrell said.
The bond amounts for Robert Smith Jr. were set at $50,000 Assault 2nd (felony), $500,000 Shooting into an occupied dwelling (felony), $10,000 Reckless Endangerment (misdemeanor), $10,000 Resisting arrest (misdemeanor). If Smith is able to make bond, he would be required to have an ankle monitor. He would also be forbidden to be around guns. No word on if Smith was able to post bond.