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A Solano County judge this afternoon ordered a Fairfield man to stand trial for the murder of Vallejo police Officer James Capoot last November. The ruling by Judge Peter Foor came at the conclusion of a nearly two-day preliminary hearing in Fairfield. The defendant, Henry Albert Smith, 39, is accused of fatally shooting Capoot the afternoon of Nov. 17, 2011, while fleeing from police after a bank robbery. Police said Smith robbed a Bank of America at the Springstowne Center, then fled in his Yukon Denali SUV. Capoot caught up with Smith and gave chase in his patrol car. When the chase reached Janice Street, Capoot forced Smith to spin out using his patrol car, police said. Smith exited the SUV and ran into the residential neighborhood, and Capoot got out of his patrol car and ran after him, Vallejo police Officer Peppino Messina testified in court Tuesday. Messina said he joined the foot chase but lost sight of Capoot and the suspect.
He said he then heard three shots, then a few moments later found Capoot wounded and unresponsive in the backyard of a home. This morning, Vallejo police Officer Mathew Meredith testified that he also saw Capoot lying in the backyard but did not immediately realize that Capoot had been shot. “I went to him, shook him and yelled at him to see if I could get his attention,” he said. Meredith and Messina took off Capoot’s shirt and gear and found a bullet in the chest area of his bulletproof vest. The pair also saw that another bullet had gone through a non-protected area below the vest, striking Capoot in the lower back. Police arrested Smith nearby shortly after the shooting and said they found a .40-caliber Glock semiautomatic handgun in his pants pocket. Also this morning, Christina Jangla, a criminologist with the San Mateo County sheriff’s crime lab, described the evidence she examined from Smith’s SUV.
Inside the car, there were two bank bags — one of which contained more than $3,500 in cash — as well as a lifelike mask made to look like an older white man, and a broken pair of sunglasses, Jangla testified. Another criminologist from the same lab, Mona Ten, testified that she recovered multiple bullets and bullet casings from the scene of the shooting as well as Capoot’s holster, gun, and vest. Eugene Banga-an, a firearms and tool-marking examiner with the San Mateo County sheriff’s forensics lab, said the bullets found at the crime scene were consistent with having been fired from the gun found on Smith.
This afternoon, American Canyon resident Robert Wilkes, who identified himself as the defendant’s best friend, testified that the mask used in the robbery was sent to his home months after he agreed to allow Smith to have something shipped to his address. The defendant’s nephew came to Wilkes’ home sometime before the end of October 2011 to retrieve the mask, according to testimony today from Wilkes and Star Wilson, who also lives at the home. Smith has been charged with murder and a number of special circumstances allegations, including lying in wait and killing a police officer to avoid arrest. He is eligible for the death penalty.
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