Arnold Smith.jpg

Arnold Smith

Update, 10:30 a.m. Wednesday

Arnold Smith, 17, was arrested Wednesday after he turned himself in to authorities, Baton Rouge police spokesman Sgt. Don Coppola Jr. said. 

Smith will be booked into East Baton Rouge Parish Prison on one count of negligent homicide. 

The Louisiana State Police Fugitive Task Force assisted in the arrest, Coppola said. 

Original story

An eighth grader at Capitol Middle School who loved football and wrestling was hanging out at home with friends one Saturday night last month when, police say, he was accidentally shot and killed.

Tyree Fleming, 14, died from a gunshot wound to the chest after one of his friends pulled out a loaded handgun and playfully pointed it in Fleming's direction, according to Baton Rouge police, who on Tuesday said they're searching for Arnold Smith, 17, the teen investigators suspect pulled the trigger.

Baton Rouge police spokesman Sgt. L'Jean McKneely said officers plan to arrest Smith on negligent homicide.

The shooting occurred around 7 p.m. on Feb. 3 at 4036 Hazelwood Drive but had not been previously reported in The Advocate.

According to the warrant issued for Smith's arrest, Baton Rouge police officers responded to a shooting and found Fleming inside a bedroom. Police questioned several people inside the house and learned that Fleming was in his bedroom with Smith and one other person when the shooting occurred.

Family members said Tuesday that Smith initially told them and investigators that Fleming committed suicide by shooting himself in the chest.

But a witness later came forward saying Smith had pulled out a small black pistol and loaded it before pointing the weapon at the witness, according to Smith's warrant. The witness said he told Smith to stop because "that is how accidents happen."

Smith then pointed the gun at Fleming, who was lying on his bed, according to the warrant. When Fleming made a sudden movement to get up, Smith reacted by firing the weapon, the witness told police.

After the shooting Smith ran out of the room. Police said in the warrant they believe he removed the weapon from the scene before returning a few minutes later without it.

Fleming's mother, Renee Fleming, said she knew right away that Smith was lying when he said her son committed suicide.

"That kid who shot my baby, killed my Tyree, he lied," she said Tuesday. "I didn't believe that at all. He was a happy child. My baby was happy."

East Baton Rouge Coroner Dr. Beau Clark said an autopsy shows Tyree Fleming died from a gunshot wound, but his manner of death has been classified as undetermined. That could change to either suicide or homicide if additional evidence is presented.

Renee Fleming said she was shocked to learn that Smith — who came to her house regularly and hung out with her children — had a gun and brought the weapon into her home.

She said Tyree was the fourth of her six children. He was very quiet, respectful and mostly spent time with his siblings when he wasn't playing football or wrestling.

"I'm just devastated. I couldn't believe what happened," his mom said. "Tyree was my good son, he went to school every day. … No one ever could have expected this."

One of Tyree's brothers and another boy who identified himself as lifelong friend described Tyree's bright smile and easygoing presence. The boys said neither of them witnessed the shooting, though they believe it was preventable.

"If you have a gun and you know it's loaded, it takes one second to pull the trigger and one second to kill someone," said the friend, also 14 years old. "In that situation, there's no such thing as an accident. … People say everything happens for a reason, but I feel like that could have been avoided."

Smith, of 6230 Poinsettia Drive, Baton Rouge, is wanted on one count each of negligent homicide and obstruction of justice. Police asked that anyone with information on Smith's whereabouts contact Violent Crimes at (225) 389-4869 or Crime Stoppers at (225) 344-7867.

Compiled from staff reports. To contact a crime reporter at The Advocate, email or call (225) 388-0369.