BAKERSFIELD – An armed robbery suspect, 26-year-old Leland Smithson of Lancaster, died after an officer-involved shooting that followed a Bakersfield bank robbery Tuesday morning.
Smithson sustained a gunshot wound to his head, but “it is unknown at this time whether the round that struck Smithson was fired from the officer’s firearm or self-inflicted,” said Sgt. Joe Grubbs, public information officer for the Bakersfield Police Department.
The bank robbery was reported around 10:18 a.m. Tuesday, May 19, at the Wells Fargo Bank branch located at 1300 22nd Street in Bakersfield, Grubbs said.
“Investigation revealed that the suspect, 26-year-old Lancaster resident Leland Smithson, who was armed with a handgun and wearing a mask over his face, contacted an unarmed bank security guard outside and ordered him into the bank,” Grubbs stated. “Once inside, Smithson ordered the guard to the ground and made entry into the vault. Smithson exited the bank, entered a white Chevrolet Impala and fled eastbound on 23rd Street where a Bakersfield police officer spotted him.”
Smithson led officers on a chase through downtown Bakersfield before crashing into a tree in the 1000 block of East 18th Street, according to Grubbs.
“After the collision an officer-involved shooting occurred. Smithson sustained a gunshot wound to his head,” Grubbs said, adding that it is not yet known whether Smithson shot himself or was shot by police.
“A loaded firearm was seized at the scene,” Grubbs said. “Currency taken from the bank was recovered from the vehicle.”
The officer involved in the shooting has been placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of an internal investigation and review by the Critical Incident Review Board, according to Grubbs.
UPDATE: FATAL SHOT DETERMINED TO BE SELF-INFLICTED
According to a statement provided May 22 by Bakersfield Police Department’s Public Information Officer Sgt. Joe Grubbs: “The gunshot that struck and killed Leland Smithson in the officer-involved shooting was determined to be self-inflicted. The officer who fired at Smithson, 15-year veteran Isaac Garcia, did not strike him.”