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Phoenix police: Rampage suspect had guns returned in 2018

KNXV Austin Smith.jpeg
Posted at 9:43 PM, Apr 15, 2019

PHOENIX — Police say a Valley man accused of killing four people, including his wife and two young daughters, had his guns taken away in November of 2018 only to be given them back a short time later.

Austin Smith was arrested last Thursday evening as he drove from an apartment complex where officers had responded to a shooting. There, they found the body of 46-year-old Ron Freeman. A woman and another man were shot and wounded at the complex, Sgt. Tommy Thompson said.

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Police initially said that Smith thought that the man who was killed was romantically involved with his wife, but a probable cause statement later filed in court said the suspect thought it was his brother, who was not named in the document, who was having an affair with her. The victim, described as a family friend, told Smith "he was crazy" before Smith killed him.

Officers who went to Smith's home later Thursday found his wife, 29-year-old Dasia Patterson, and their 5-year-old daughter, Nasha Smith, dead from gunshot wounds. Their 7-year-old daughter, Mayan Smith, died from apparent blunt-force trauma, and the couple's 3-year-old daughter was found uninjured under a bed at the family's home.

"It is my understanding that for whatever reason he elected not to shoot her," Thompson said. The suspect told detectives during an interview that he believed "in God's eyes it was all right for him to deal with someone in this manner who had been involved in adultery or an extramarital affair," Thompson said.

The court document released later in the evening described Smith punching the older daughter, throwing her to the ceiling and onto the floor, then striking the child's head several times with a baseball bat. Thompson described the scene at the apartment complex as chaotic, with firefighters treating victims while authorities did not initially know the shooter's whereabouts.

Officers with a warrant searched the car Smith was driving and found a 9mm handgun, a .45 caliber handgun and a .223 caliber rifle they believe were used in the shootings, according to the probable cause statement.

Authorities say in November of 2018, officers responded to Smith's home after a neighbor called to report he had a gun and was yelling that people were trying to kill him. Smith said he would do whatever was necessary to protect himself and his family and said he was armed. When the officers arrived, they found Smith had a handgun in a holster on his hip.

Police say Smith was cooperative with the officers and was not aggressive towards them. However, because of his behavior, the officers took Smith to a psychiatric center and impounded three guns he had for safekeeping. Later that month, Smith requested his guns back from police. According to officers, a records check was conducted and Smith had no outstanding warrants and was not a prohibited possessor so, in accordance with the law, his three guns were returned to him.

Smith was booked on suspicion of four counts of first-degree murder, two counts of attempted first-degree murder and three counts of aggravated assault, Sgt. Thompson said.