Medical Examiner Attacked, Bomb Tied to his Body
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - The city's chief medical examiner was attacked Saturday night by an unknown assailant, bound with barbed wire and left with what appeared to be a bomb tied to his body, police said Sunday.
The device did not explode and Medical Examiner O.C. Smith escaped with minor injuries.
The device, which apparently was capable of exploding, appeared similar to a crude bomb found in March in a stairway of the Shelby County Regional Forensic Center, where Smith and his staff work.
That bomb was destroyed by police and no one was injured. Authorities said it was designed to hurt people, rather than damage the building.
Deputy Police Chief Bob Wright declined to speculate on why Smith was attacked but noted that he has played major roles in numerous criminal investigations.
Smith and his staff perform autopsies on the bodies of crime victims and often provide information used in criminal prosecutions.
Smith was attacked about 10 p.m. as he left the forensic center, which is on the campus of the University of Tennessee medical school in downtown Memphis. Police said it is not unusual for Smith to work late hours.
Smith was overpowered by one or more attackers after an immobilizing chemical was thrown or sprayed in his face.
A university security guard found him two and a half hours later, still tied up and lying near a parking lot.
The police bomb squad was called to free Smith because of the device bound to his body.
Police X-rayed the device and rendered it harmless with an explosive charge.
The X-rays and the remains of the device were sent to a lab in Atlanta run by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
"We're going to let the lab do the analysis and let us know if we have a functioning device or not. Our indications are right now that most of the components are there for a functioning device," said Gene Marquez, agent in charge of the ATF office in Memphis.
Wright said Smith suffered minor cuts, bruises and a chemical burn to his face.
"He went back to the scene after he was released from the hospital to assist the investigators," Wright said.
He declined to discuss Smith's whereabouts or say if he was under police guard.
"Obviously we're going to take the necessary precautions to assure Dr. Smith's safety," Wright said.
Marquez described the device tied to Smith and the bomb found near his office in March as "unsophisticated." Both, however, were capable of causing serious injuries or death, he said.
"We saw similarities between this device and the previous device at the morgue," Marquez said, declining to go into further detail.
Last June during court hearings on convicted killer Philip Workman's attempt to avoid execution, authorities received an anonymous letter threatening Smith.
Smith's testimony supported Workman's conviction of killing a Memphis police officer in 1981.
The letter accused Smith of lying and referred to Workman as an innocent "LAMB OF GOD."
"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," the letter said in part.