Suspect admits to gun charge
HUNTINGTON -- Antonio Michael Smith, the man accused of shooting six people at Northcott Court in late September, pleaded guilty Monday afternoon to a related gun charge in U.S. District Court.
Smith, 31, admitted to having been a convicted felon in possession of two, 9 mm handguns Sept. 24, 2013.
The related shooting occurred about 8:45 p.m. that day in a courtyard of the public housing complex near Hal Greer Boulevard. Smith faces more than a decade in prison at sentencing in early July.
Smith, upon being arrested days later in Brooklyn, N.Y., confessed to having shot the six victims with no intent to kill, FBI Special Agent Darren Cox testified Monday.
Each victim received non-life-threatening gunshot wounds to their legs. Many of those injured ran to a nearby gasoline station, where authorities later found a stolen firearm outside and a significant amount of crack cocaine in the business's restroom.
Smith's agreement also included his guilty plea to heroin trafficking in February 2013, in exchange for prosecutors agreeing to dismiss a Jan. 24, 2013, gun offense and all state charges related to the Sept. 24 shooting.
The state warrants alleging felony wanton endangerment and six counts of malicious wounding remained active prior to Monday's hearing.
Cabell County Prosecutor Corky Hammers confirmed his portion of the agreement after court. He deferred further comment to assistant Sharon Frazier, who declined to comment. She serves a dual assignment prosecuting cases in state and federal court.
The agreement allows prosecutors to secure a conviction related to the Sept. 24 shooting, a case in which investigators openly criticized the victims early on for providing no cooperation. A review of court records showed Smith and each of the victims had prior convictions.
Huntington Police Cpl. Ryan Bentley attended Monday's hearing. In September, he said investigators believed the shooting stemmed from an altercation Smith had with some of the victims days before. The subsequent indictment listed the firearms as a 9 mm Walther PPK pistol and an unspecified 9 mm handgun.
Smith, already a convicted felon, had been prohibited from possessing any firearm due to his criminal history.
That included convictions for unlawful wounding in Huntington and robbery in Columbus, Ohio. He also had resolved a Huntington drug charge with a plea to attempt to commit a felony.
During the hearing Monday, Smith did not specify his involvement in the shooting, but explained his role in the preceding drug transaction.
He told U.S. District Judge Robert C. Chambers he sold a quantity of heroin as part of a Feb. 6, 2013, deal along Adams Avenue in Huntington. Cox testified the recorded transaction involved a confidential informant and approximately 1 gram of heroin.
Investigators used the indictment's initial version, returned under seal May 21, to track the location of a cellphone belonging to Smith, according to a federal search warrant affidavit filed Oct. 2 and unsealed Oct. 15. Charges related to the Sept. 24 shooting were added in December.
Two witnesses, in days following the shooting, pointed investigators to Smith's use of a phone with a New York area code. Authorities soon thereafter verified the cellphone's account information and determined its last known phone usage in Brooklyn. That provided further basis to track the phone, and Smith was apprehended Oct. 3 as part of a raid organized and coordinated by a New York-based FBI S.W.A.T. unit.
Smith's sister and two other family members attended Monday's hearing. They declined comment afterward.
Follow Curtis Johnson at Facebook.com/curtisjohnsonHD and via Twitter @curtisjohnsonHD.
The Herald-Dispatch welcomes your comments on this article, but please be civil. Avoid profanity, obscenity, personal attacks, accusations of criminal activity, name-calling or insults to the other posters. Herald-dispatch.com does not control or monitor comments as they are posted, but if you find a comment offensive or uncivil, hover your mouse over the comment and click the X that appears in the upper right of the comment. If you do not want your comment to post to your personal Facebook page, uncheck the box below the comment.