Cops Kill Mosque Bomber in Florida
- Fla. mosque bombing suspect fatally shot in Okla.
By KRISTI EATON
The Associated Press
May 4, 2011
ORIENTA, Okla. A man wanted in the bombing of a Florida mosque was shot and killed Wednesday when he brandished a weapon as agents tried to serve an arrest warrant in northwest Oklahoma, FBI officials said.
Sandlin Matthews Smith, 46, of St. Johns County, Fla., pulled out a firearm as federal and state law enforcement officers approached him in a field at Glass Mountain State Park near Orienta and asked him to surrender, said FBI Special Agent Jeff Westcott of Jacksonville, Fla.
Westcott said agents learned late Tuesday that Smith was staying in a tent in the park, located in the rugged foothills of the Glass Mountains in northwest Oklahoma. An Oklahoma City FBI SWAT team and other law enforcement officers blocked off the area overnight, Westcott said.
Agent Clayton Simmonds at the FBI's Oklahoma City office said Smith was taken to a hospital in Fairview, where he was pronounced dead.
Reporters were kept back about two miles from the scene of the shooting. Because of the nature of the bombing, agents were concerned that there may have been an explosive device in the area, Simmonds said. Officials wanted to keep reporters away while they were processing the scene, but so far no bombs have been found, he said.
Simmonds said he didn't think there were any other campers at the park.
Smith was facing several federal charges, including damage to religious property and possession of a destructive device, in connection with the May 10, 2010, bombing of the Islamic Center of Northeast Florida in Jacksonville. No one was hurt in that explosion, but authorities found remnants of a crude pipe bomb at the scene, and shrapnel from the blast was found a hundred yards away.
A call to a telephone listing for Smith in St. John, Fla., seeking comment wasn't immediately returned Wednesday night.
The center issued a statement commending law enforcement officers' diligence in finding the person responsible for the blast.
"The membership and constituents of the Islamic Center of Northeast Florida join all citizens of goodwill in Jacksonville to express their relief that any threat posed by the person suspected in the bombing of the Islamic Center has ceased as well as convey their regret that any lives were lost," the statement read.
The shooting occurred about 110 miles northwest of Oklahoma City in a sparsely populated area of Major County.
Levada Tharp, who lives about four miles from the park, said law enforcement officers came to her house about 8:30 a.m. and asked if she had seen anything suspicious. Tharp said she hadn't seen anything unusual.
She said she and her husband have been scared in the past of encountering coyotes on their 40-acre property, but not another person. They've locked the motorhome they keep behind their house and she will take other precautions when she goes out on their land.
"I won't do it now without my cell phone," she said. "Now I'll take the truck."
Simmonds said it's unclear why Smith was in Oklahoma. He said the shooting still was being investigated.
"I'm not at liberty to say who fired on him," Simmonds said.
Associated Press writer Sean Murphy in Oklahoma City contributed to this report.
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