White House Fence Jumper Shot, Killed in Pa. Courthouse - NBC Connecticut
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White House Fence Jumper Shot, Killed in Pa. Courthouse

Sheriff's Deputy Shoots and Kills Courthouse Attacker

Investigators say a sheriff's deputy shot and killed Curtis Smith after he slashed a guard at the Chester County Courthouse Tuesday morning. Smith is the man who investigators say once jumped a fence at the White House. NBC10's George Spencer speaks to those who knew the man. (Published Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2015)

Five months after his arrest for scaling a wall of the White House, a suburban Philadelphia man was shot and killed after slashing a sheriff’s deputy inside the Chester County Justice Center.

Gunshots rang out inside the courthouse at 201 W Market St. in West Chester, Pennsylvania around 11: 50 a.m. Tuesday after an armed man charged past metal detectors leading to a lockdown of the building.

"Curtis Smith, from Coatesville, came directly into the justice center and pulled out a knife and attacked a deputy sheriff, slashing him," District Attorney Tom Hogan said.

Another deputy then opened fire, striking Smith, said Hogan. Smith, 34, received first aid at the scene before being taken to Paoli Hospital, where doctors pronounced him dead.

A uniformed man with a bandaged hand could be seen on a stretcher being loaded into an ambulance. Hogan said that sheriff's deputy was treated for wounds to his arm and hand.

Photo credit: Pete Bannan - Daily Local News

Luckily no one else was hurt.

"The sheriffs did their jobs, the lockdown went perfectly," said Hogan.

Hogan identified Smith as the same man who allegedly jumped the outer perimeter of the White House back in March and was detained by Secret Service.

Smith was set to face burglary, assault and harassment charges at a preliminary hearing -- that has been continued multiple times -- in October stemming from a May domestic assault arrest, according to court records. He also pleaded guilty in late May to traffic violations.

Attorney Lewis Hannah III, who represented Smith in the domestic violence case, called his client's death "really tragic."

"He was a truck driver," Hannah said. "He worked every day, had a family, a wife, you know, you would have never have thought.”

Hannah said his client was supposed to obtain counseling before the next hearing and that's why Smith went to the courthouse Tuesday. "He had no terrorist claim or anything like that," he said. 

"I'm gonna get ya! I'm gonna get ya!" Smith yelled as he entered the building, according to witness Reiley Aikman.

Court staff heard at least three gunshots coming from the lobby, said Sara Finneran, a retired staff support employee who was visiting her former coworkers at the time of the shooting.

Photo credit: Candice Monhollan - Daily Local News

"Very scary situation, " Finneran told NBC10's Rosemary Connors. "You never think it's going to happen in your own backyard."

Finneran and her former coworkers hid in the empty office of a judge, she said.

The county sheriff's office, county detectives and the DA were all at the courthouse, which remained closed for the rest of the day.

Smith's neighbors and friends in the Coatesville area described him as the "neighborhood dad" who played games with children, encouraged them to exercise, and organized barbecues. They also said he was well-liked and respected even after the White House incident

Mark Whitlow, a friend of Smith's, told NBC10 he saw him Tuesday morning before his death. Whitlow says there was no indication of anything wrong. He also said however Curtis was unemployed and had recently lost his father. In regards to the White House incident, Whitlow claims Curtis laughed about it and told him it was a "stupid mistake."