Nathaniel Alexander Smith
STOCKTON, CA - A wanted man shot by Stockton police two weeks ago during an attempted carjacking probably should never have been out on the streets in the first place because of his lengthy criminal past.
"20-20 hindsight? Yes, obviously a mistake," said San Joaquin County district attorney spokesman Robert Himelblau.
Nathaniel Smith was wanted by police for failing to make a court appearance when he was spotted by police on Feb. 13. But Smith ran across a freeway and down an embankment and tried to carjack a vehicle, according to police. Smith was wounded in the shooting and is still hospitalized.
The court hearing was to be Smith's official sentencing to state prison for a violent DUI incident in 2010. But when Smith was told in October he'd be off to prison for a long time, he asked for and received from the judge and prosecutor, time to be home with family over the holidays.
"If someone has a prison sentence, 99 times out of 100, our position is: You have a sentence, let's go to prison," said Himelblau.
It was while Smith was free to be home with family that he was arrested in Tracy on a burglary charge at a Home Depot store.
That was a court appearance he did make, but once again, a prosecutor and judge allowed him a manageable bail, even though he was headed to state prison soon, and was a three- strikes candidate.
Reporter: "Doesn't that jump off the page? A third-strike case?"
"It should. It should have," said Himelblau.
A month later, Smith failed to make his state prison sentencing appearance and that's when an arrest warrant was issued, triggering a search. A month after that, he was shot during the attempted carjacking.
"You have probation, the D.A.'s office, jail and courts. Somehow when they all came together, there was a gap, and this guy fell through the gap," said Himelblau.
When Smith has recovered and is back in the legal system, it's safe to assume he won't be granted more freedom. And Himelblau said because of the new charges, it's also guaranteed he'll serve far more than nine years.
By Tim Daly, email@example.com