LAUDERDALE CO., Miss. (WLBT) - Lauderdale County Chancellor Judge Charles Smith is making a remarkable recovery after being shot outside the county courthouse in downtown Meridian on March 16.
Chancellor Smith says that he is eager to return to the bench and hopes that doctors will clear him to resume his duties in a few weeks.
“I’m looking forward to getting back to work. I am hoping that in a couple of weeks, the doctors will say that I’m ready to go back to work because I’m ready,” he said.
While he hasn’t fully healed, Smith says that he is mentally ready to resume the bench.
It’s been almost two months since an assailant’s bullet ripped through Smith’s hip as he arrived for work. On that day, he recalls that he was the first in the parking lot on the east side of the Courthouse about 7:15 that morning.
He had walked behind his truck when he was startled by a loud noise.
“I heard this loud sound like a thunderclap and thought lightning... knocked me down. I looked up and the sky was clear,” he recalled. He said at that moment realized he had been shot.
“There was a deputy around the corner who immediately came around and he radioed for help. Another deputy who was close by was also a nurse. He had his trauma kit. He knew what to do in regards to stopping the flow of blood,” Smith said.
“If the deputy hadn’t known what to do to stop the flow of blood, I would have bled out right there,” he continued.
Smith stated that he is fortunate to have survived the incident. "I am so blessed. Just by the grace of God, I’m here. I think He put the right people in the right place at the right time or I wouldn’t be here...it’s a miracle. All I can say is God just said it wasn’t my time.”
Since that day, he has undergone multiple surgeries to repair the bullet wound that entered his left hip, clipped his femoral artery, split the ball and socket joint in his hip and exited in front where the leg joins the torso.
He has spent time recuperating at Methodist Rehabilitation Center before returning to Meridian several weeks ago.
Before this incident, Smith said he had never been threatened or felt threatened as a lawyer.
“I have never ever really worried about my personal security – when I practiced law when I was a prosecutor and as a judge. We talked about it, thought about it in general. I had never been concerned about anyone personally trying to do anything to me,” he said.
Now, Smith says he pays more attention to things such as ordinary traffic.
“I don’t know that it’s going to change my life. I’m going to get up and enjoy the day and go to work. I’m not going to be paranoid about it, but it is a wake-up call. If it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone.”
Smith did not see or hear the shooter. No arrest has been made in this case.
The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation is leading the investigation. East Mississippi Crimestoppers has offered a reward of up to $32,000 for information that would lead to an arrest in the shooting of Judge Smith.
Tips may be given anonymously to the Crimestoppers tip line at 855-485-8477.