The man accused of fatally shooting Vallejo police Officer James Capoot during a chase that followed a bank robbery last week made his first appearance in Solano County Superior Court this afternoon. Henry Albert Smith Jr., 37, of Fairfield, delayed entering a plea for the murder of Capoot, 45, who was shot Thursday afternoon while pursuing Smith after a robbery at a Bank of America on Springs Road.
Judge Peter Foor put over the plea entry until Nov. 29, and scheduled a hearing Monday on a defense motion to bar the media from taking pictures or video of the defendant. Solano County Public Defender Lesli Caldwell said in the motion, which was filed Friday, that a defendant may seek to close all or part of a trial if pretrial publicity or the presence of spectators poses a “significant threat” to the right to receive a fair trial. The motion also states, “The media has no enhanced right beyond that held by the public to attend a criminal trial.”
The defense claims that further dissemination of images of the defendant by the media would continue to put Smith’s safety at risk. Smith, who was wearing a gray-and-white striped jail uniform in court, has been charged with murder and a number of special-circumstance allegations, including committing murder during or after a robbery, having a prior felony conviction and lying in wait.
He is being held in Solano County Jail without bail and could face the death penalty if convicted. Capoot, a 19-year veteran of the Police Department, was shot after responding to reports of a robbery at the Bank of America around 1:30 p.m. Thursday. The robbery suspect, later identified as Smith, fled the bank in a silver GMC Denali and was chased by Capoot, police said. The pursuit ended a few miles away in the 100 block of Janice Street where Capoot used his patrol car to force the SUV to spin out, then chased Smith on foot, Vallejo police Sgt. Jeff Bassett said. Bassett said Capoot and Smith were about 10 to 12 feet apart when Smith fired two or three shots, hitting Capoot, who later died at a hospital.
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