Still no answers as to motive for courthouse knife attack

Coatesville man, shot and killed by deputies, had troubled past

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times


The folding knife authorities say Curtis Smith used in an attack on Sheriff’s Deputies at the Chester County Courthouse Tuesday, which resulted in Smith’s death.

WEST CHESTER — While the “what” of Tuesday’s knife-attack, fatal shooting at the county courthouse is much clearer following Thursday’s release of a preliminary investigation report of the incident, the “why” remains a mystery for investigators and friends and family of the man involved.

Curtis Smith, 34, who had residences listed in both Coatesville and Downingtown, died Tuesday after allegedly attacking a County Sheriff’s Deputy, Kevin Brough, with a knife at the Chester County Justice Center’s security station. Another deputy — unnamed as a policy of the Chester County District Attorney’s Office – fired three shots, two of which hit Smith, killing him. A third bullet was fired and it is unclear whether that is the bullet hit Brough, who apparently was shot in the hand during the incident, or whether one of the shots hit both men.

What is known is that Smith had a troubled recent past. His younger brother Derek is currently serving a sentence in the killing of Smith’s father in 2013, which authorities suggest may have sent the 2000 Coatesville Area High School graduate on a downward spiral. Smith was charged in a March incident where he is alleged to have jumped the fence at The White House. His wife had filed a protective order and Smith had been arrested for burglary an assault, authorities said.

According to the report, family members who had been with Smith the morning of the incident said he seemed normal. But apparently, he suddenly sped away from the house. It appears he headed directly to the Justice Center, parked on the ground floor of the garage across the street and entered the front doors of the Justice Center at 11:49 a.m.

The report said that two deputy sheriffs were stationed at the security entrance when Smith entered the building. Smith reportedly said “Let’s do this (expletive)” pulled out a folding knife and slashed at the nearest deputy, Brough. The other deputy pulled our his service weapon and shot Smith twice in the torso after firing three bullets.

Smith received immediate medical care and was conscious when transported to Paoli Hospital, the report said. On the trip to the hospital, he was able to tell emergency medical techs his name but little else.

Brough was treated at the scene for the knife attack — which might have been more serious had he not been wearing a ballistic vest, officials said. Following surgery on his injured hand, it appears the wound was caused by a gunshot, rather than a knife wound, the report said.

Investigators say they don’t believe that either deputy had been targeted by Smith, describing the attack as “random.” The report said some family members speculated that Smith had intended the event to be “suicide by cop” — an event where an individual intends to provoke a lethal response from law enforcement.

Officials praised the response of the Sheriff’s Deputies during the event.

“The Deputy Sheriffs responded appropriately and professionally to this attack,” Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan said. “All of the training that we do to address active threats paid dividends. In many of these attacks in public buildings around the nation, there have been multiple casualties of innocent civilians. That did not happen here because of the immediate response of the Deputy Sheriffs. There is no such thing as a ‘good’ shooting, because a man has lost his life and it is clear in retrospect that there were mental health  issues involved. However, the Deputy Sheriffs fulfilled their duty by protecting themselves and the citizens at the Justice Center.”

And afterwards, as well.

“The quick response and training of the Deputy Sheriffs in this encounter averted what could have been an even greater tragedy,” said Chester County Sheriff Carolyn “Bunny” Welsh. “The four Deputy Sheriffs who are trained EMTs and paramedics and were in the Justice Center responding immediately should be commended for their extraordinary efforts.  We will continue to work here in the Sheriff’s Office to train to the highest standards and provide a safe and secure environment for the citizens and employees in the Justice Center and other Chester County buildings.”

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