Birmingham Detective Shot Twice By Would-Be Cop-Killer, Saved By Gun Malfunction
Birmingham, AL – A Birmingham police detective was shot twice outside of a Birmingham café on Friday morning and likely would have been killed if the suspect’s gun had not jammed.
The incident began at about 8 a.m. on April 24 after 26-year-old Larry Dejuan Henderson arrived for breakfast at Ruth’s Café located at 4012 24th Street North, AL.com reported.
Henderson ordered a breakfast sandwich and cake, but when the cashier gave him his total, he said he didn’t have money.
Wilma Bibb, owner of Ruth’s Café, said Henderson told the cashier “I’m gonna need you to pay for my s--t today,” AL.com reported.
“He may have just been kidding, I don’t know, but the cashier said, ‘I didn’t bring my debit card or cash today,’ so [Henderson] said he was going out to his car,’’ Bibb explained.
She said that’s when the cashier pointed out Bibb and said “That’s the owner. You can ask her,” AL.com reported.
“He turned around and looked at me and I said, “Are you OK? Did we take care of you?’’ Bibb said. “He said, ‘Yes.’’’
She said he went out to his car and sat there for a few minutes, and when he came back in, he had his debit card in one hand and a gun in the other, AL.com reported.
“He put the gun in his pocket, and he paid for his food,’’ Bibb said. “We have it on tape – him walking in with the debit card in one hand and the gun in the other.”
“Of course, when he came in with a gun, the staff was watching him from that point on because he was parked right in front of the restaurant,’’ she told AL.com.
“He put his food on the seat of the car and he just sat there and stared into the restaurant for about 35 minutes,’’ Bibb said.
About that time, Birmingham Police Detective Mikiel Smith arrived at Ruth’s Café to pick up his own breakfast, AL.com reported.
Det. Smith, 47, was a regular customer and well-known by restaurant staff so they told him about their concerns.
“One of my staff members said, ‘something’s wrong with that guy. He’s scaring people,’’’ Bibb said. “The police officer comes in the restaurant all the time so I asked him, ‘Will you do me a favor? This young man is just sitting here. Can you check and see if he’s okay and if he’s okay, can you just ask him to leave?’”
The owner said she went outside with Det. Smith and watched the officer approach Henderson’s car.
“Young man, are you okay?” the detective asked, according to Bibb.
She said Henderson replied “yeah,” and Det. Smith told him “We’re going to need you to leave the premises.”
Bibb said Henderson just looked down and didn’t say anything, AL.com reported.
She said Det. Smith calmly asked Henderson to leave three times, but did not threaten him with arrest.
“By the time he said it the third time, that young man opened the door and he fired, and he shot the officer in the arm. He shot him in the arm twice,’’ Bibb said.
Det. Smith was blown backwards into a red pickup truck parked next to Henderson, but that truck propped him up and gave him the leverage to fight back, AL.com reported.
“The only thing that saved his life was that he kept kicking the door as the young man was trying to get out of the car. The officer was bleeding everywhere,’’ Bibb said. “The officer fired, and he did hit him. I don’t know how but the young man had the adrenaline to keep trying to get out of the car and the officer kept kicking the door.”
She said that’s when Henderson’s gun jammed and Det. Smith dashed for cover on the side of the building, AL.com reported.
“If the gun hadn’t jammed, that officer would be dead,’’ Bibb said. “I know he wasn’t expecting that young man to fire, none of us were. I have never seen anything like it.”
“The young man – he had already been hit – he got out of the car and was on the ground,’’ the restaurant owner said. “He hit his gun on the ground [to free the jam], put the gun to his head and shot himself in the head.”
Police backup arrived and both Det. Smith and Henderson were transported to University of Alabama – Birmingham Hospital’s Trauma Center, AL.com reported.
Henderson was pronounced dead at the hospital.
Det. Smith, a 19-year veteran of the Birmingham Police Department, was shot in the arm and hand but was in “good condition” and expected to make a full recovery, WSFA reported.
Bibb wanted to make sure nobody thought the detective had been the aggressor in the incident, AL.com reported.
“I don’t want that officer’s character to be assassinated,’’ she said. “Anybody in this neighborhood knows if you’re in Ruth’s café for more than 30 minutes, you’re going to see a police officer or a sheriff because they all eat here. That wouldn’t have been anybody from the neighborhood that would do this.”
Police said that gun Henderson used was stolen and that the dead man had an illustrious criminal history.
When Henderson was 16 in 2010, he was charged with the capital murder of a 69-year-old man in Ensley, AL.com reported.
He pleaded guilty in 2014 to a reduced charge of murder and got 20 years in prison, AL.com reported.
His case became one of the two cases that in 2013 caused the Alabama Supreme Court to issue rules about sentencing for juvenile killers in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that said automatic life-without-parole sentences for juveniles were unconstitutional.
Henderson was arrested on drug charges again in 2017 and 2019, AL.com reported.