Medical Examiner Ambushed
Bomb, Barbed Wire, Acid Used In Attack On Smith
By Yolanda Jones
The Commercial Appeal - Memphis

An attacker ambushed Shelby County Medical Examiner Dr. O. C. Smith Saturday night, wrapped him from head to toe in barbed wire and strapped a bomb to his body.
Police said Smith left his office at about 10 and was headed to the parking lot when someone threw an acid-like substance in his face to subdue him.
For nearly three hours, he was unable to move or shout for help because of the barbed wire in his mouth.
A security guard spotted Smith's vehicle in the parking lot, became suspicious and found Smith about 12:30 a.m. Sunday outside the office building in the medical center.
The police bomb squad was called to free Smith because of the device bound to his body. Smith was taken to the Regional Medical Center at Memphis and treated for cuts, bruises and a chemical burn to his face.
Released early Sunday, Smith went back to his office to help investigators work the case.
"This is his character," said Deputy Chief R. G. Wright of the Memphis police. "He is always willing to help out and always go the extra mile no matter what."
Sunday, police had more questions than answers.
"Yes, this was a functioning device that could have caused serious injuries or killed somebody," said Gene Marquez, resident agent in charge of the federal Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms office in Memphis.
This is the second time in the last three months a bomb or explosive device has been left on the doorstep of the Shelby County Regional Forensic Center, which houses the morgue and the Medical Examiner's Office.
On March 13, a bomb and two smaller explosive-type devices were found in a stairwell of the building at 1060 Madison.
At the time, local and federal agents couldn't say for sure if Smith and his staff were the targets.
Saturday's attack on Smith left police with little doubt about the focus of the attack but no answers as to why.
"We don't know a motive and aren't making any assumptions as to why anyone would want to hurt Dr. Smith," said Wright.
During a noon press conference, Memphis police and ATF agents wouldn't disclose specifics of the investigation such as information about a suspect or details about the device. Authorities said Smith was found on an outside stairway on the west side of the forensic center building. It was near the area where the bomb and other devices were found in March.
"All we can say is the components of this device are similar to the one found in March," said Marquez. "Both are not very sophisticated and are very similar, but until we finish the investigation we can't say if the two are connected."
When the device was removed from Smith, police X-rayed it to see if it was an explosive device. When they determined it was a bomb, they sent it to the ATF lab in Atlanta for further analysis.
Today, the ATF's National Response Team, made up of agents who are experts on explosive devices and who specialize in profiling bombers, will arrive in Memphis.
"This is the cream of the cream," Marquez said. "We are planning to saturate this investigation and team up with local police on this matter immediately."
The ATF also is offering a $5,000 reward for information about the case.
The Commercial Appeal could not reach Smith, who was placed under heavy security, for comment.
Smith, 49, is one of several local forensic science specialists who help investigate criminal cases.
Last year, anonymous letters threatened harm to Smith, a prosecution witness in the long-running case of convicted Memphis cop killer Philip Workman.
Smith said at the time that he had not received any letters himself but was taking the threats "very seriously."
Workman's attorneys had challenged the validity of Smith's ballistics and laboratory tests. Smith said the tests proved Workman's bullet killed Memphis police Lt. Ronald Oliver in 1981.
In one letter, the writer called Smith a liar and said, "Long have I waited for my HOLY ORDER to fight against the DOCTOR-KILLER abortionists but now I know OUR LORD was saving me for something larger."
"I know Dr. Smith has worked several big cases, but I can't imagine who would want to hurt him," said Wright. "That is what we are working on now to find out."
Known for his precision and thorough work, Smith is highly regarded by police and prosecutors and defense attorneys as well.
"In the 1994 case where we found three homicide victims hidden in the cemetery, Dr. Smith was right there down in the graves working hard like always," said Wright.
Police are asking anyone with information to call Crime Stoppers at 528-CASH or the ATF hotline at (888) ATF-BOMB.
- Yolanda Jones: 529-2380


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