FAIRFIELD -- A Solano County judge on Wednesday ordered a Fairfield ex-con to stand trial on a murder charge in the gunshot slaying of veteran Vallejo police Officer Jim Capoot late last year.
Following a two-day preliminary hearing, Superior Court Judge Peter B. Foor ordered Henry Albert Smith Jr., 38, to stand trial on allegations that he fatally shot the 19-year veteran officer following a pursuit on Nov. 17, 2011.
Foor's ruling followed hours of testimony in which investigators said they recovered more than $3,000 and a mask in Smith's van and that shell casings found at the scene matched Smith's gun.
Over the two days, Deputy District Attorney Karen Jensen presented evidence in the case to indicate Capoot, 45, chased Smith, who was suspected of robbing a Vallejo bank, into a backyard where the fatal shots were fired.
Following the pursuit, Vallejo police Officer Mathew Meredith testified Wednesday that he entered a backyard in the 100 block of Janice Street with Officer Peppino Messina.
Upon making their way down a narrow sideyard they found Capoot laying on the ground in the open area of the yard.
"He was in distress but I didn't know he'd been shot," Meredith testified.
Tending to Capoot, Meredith said he removed his kevlar vest at which time a bullet fell into his hand.
Meredith said he also noticed a wound to Capoot's back, just below the protective vest line.
Dr. Susan Hogan, a forensic pathologist for the Solano County Sheriff-Coroner's Office, had testified Tuesday that Capoot died from a gunshot wound to the torso.
In the autopsy, Hogan testified that she found a bullet entry wound to Capoot's lower back, which exited his chest. A second abrasion was noted to his shoulder area and experts testified that a bullet was lodged inside the vest in that area.
A bullet had also struck Capoot's gun, which was still holstered, according to testimony.
Smith was later arrested down the street from the fatal shooting. Officers recovered a .40-caliber Glock semi-automatic handgun in his left front pocket.
Mona Ten, a criminalist with the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office, testified that she recovered three bullet casings in the backyard, among other evidence. The casings were along the back of the home, according to a diagram of the crime scene she created.
Those shell casings were analyzed by Eugene Banga-an, a Firearms and Toolmarks Examiner for the same agency. He test fired the gun that police found on Smith and compared those casings to the casings in the backyard where Capoot was slain.
"The three casings were identified back to the suspect's gun," Banga-an testified.
Police said Capoot never fired his weapon and testimony from Banga-an indicated the weapon was unable to fire due to the bullet strike. Smith's SUV was also searched for evidence.
Inside, Christina Jangla, also a criminalist with the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office, recovered a "fairly realistic" mask from the vehicle, along with gloves and sunglasses.
The teller at the Bank of America branch on Springs road which was robbed on the day of the shooting testified that the suspect wore a mask and she gave him about $3,000 from her drawer.
Jangla testified that a bank bag was also found in Smith's vehicle contained $3,579.
Foor ordered that Smith be held to answer on charges of murder and being a felon in possession of a firearm, including all enhancements and special allegations .
The special circumstances allege:
Smith killed a peace officer who was engaged in the performance of his duties; that Smith knew or reasonably should have known Capoot was a peace officer; that the killing was committed during the commission, or immediate flight, after committing a robbery; that the killing was committed for the purpose of avoiding arrest or preventing arrest; that Smith intentionally killed Capoot by means of lying in wait.
The special circumstance allegations, if found true by a jury, would subject Smith to a penalty of either life in prison without possibility of parole or the death penalty.
On Wednesday, Solano County District Attorney Donald A. du Bain said that the decision whether to seek the death penalty would likely not come until after January, giving defense attorneys time to submit evidence of mitigating circumstances, if they so choose.
Smith was ordered back to court at 8:30 a.m., Dec. 12 for arraignment. He remains in Solano County Jail custody without bail.