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Originally published August 09, 2013

Baltimore City Officer Awaiting Trial for Allegedly Killing Fiancée Commits Suicide

by Blair Adams and Krishana Davis
AFRO Staff Writers

    James Smith, a 20-year police veteran with the Baltimore City Police Department, committed suicide while awaiting trial for the May 7, 2013 alleged killing his fiancee', Kendra Diggs. (Courtesy Photo)
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A 4-year-old Baltimore boy is an orphan after his father, a city police officer, committed suicide while awaiting trial for gunning down his fiancée, the boy’s mother, in their West Baltimore neighborhood.

Three months after killing his fiancée, Kendra Diggs, 37, James Smith took his own life while being held without bail at the Maryland Reception, Diagnostic and Classification Center in East Baltimore.

“An officer doing routine rounds found detainee James Smith unresponsive in his cell around 1 a.m. on August 5,” said Mark Vernarelli, spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety.

Smith, a 20-year police veteran, barricaded Diggs and the young boy in their home in the 1100 block of N. Parrish St on May 7 and held them at gunpoint.

According to court documents, upon arrival, police heard a women yell, “Help me, help me.” One of the officers forced his way into the house and saw Diggs suffering from a gunshot wound to the face.

On the 911 call released by Baltimore police, Diggs’ female friend, Lee Bailey, called the emergency dispatcher screaming, “My girlfriend and her boyfriend are fighting. I can’t get in the gate.”

“I hear her screaming and crying, the baby’s in the house and she said call the police,” Bailey told dispatchers.

According to police records, officers pulled Diggs from the house when Smith fired shots from the top floor window, striking Diggs in the head.

According to 911 call records, another neighbor who lives in the 1100 block of Parrish also called in the emergency.

“The neighbor across the street is laying down on the ground,” said the female caller. “She’s been shot… She’s bleeding terribly.”

Smith then barricaded himself in the home for nearly six hours along with the 4-year-old boy.

At the conclusion of the standoff, Smith released the boy unharmed and police were able to apprehend him. He was later charged with first-degree murder.

A neighbor and family friend, who chose to be identified only as Ms. Brown, said she never heard the couple argue. She said Smith and Diggs had been living in the block for nearly eight years.

“They were nice people,” she said.

Angela Carter Watson, a Baltimore police spokesperson, said Smith’s suicide ends a tragic story.

“James Smith’s death brings to a close a sad and final chapter in a series of tragic event that left four children without parents,” said Carter Watson. “The collective thoughts and prayers of the Baltimore City Police Department go out to everyone involved.”

According to the Department of Corrections, the staff administered CPR on Smith after finding him not breathing in his cell. Vernarelli said Baltimore city paramedics transported him to Johns Hopkins Hospital, where he was pronounced head.

Vernarelli said there have only been three suicides in state facilities this year, compared to five in 2012 and four in 2011.

“The comprehensive suicide prevention initiative includes intensive training by licensed medical professionals, suicide risk assessment tools and inmate suicide prevention observers,” said Vernarelli.

Vernarelli said Smith was not on suicide watch at the time of his death, and had not displayed any suicidal tendencies.



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