Two armed and dangerous fugitives wanted for shooting at law enforcement in North Carolina were arrested after a wild and fiery SWAT situation in Treasure Island overnight.
The two men, 50-year-old Donald Billings and 26-year-old Alton Smoot, were wanted in connection with an incident that happened last Saturday, Aug. 11. When Alleghany County deputies in North Carolina tried to pull over a Toyota Tundra registered to Billings that day, authorities say the truck drove away and began a police chase.
During the chase, deputies said Billings and Smoot shot at them from the truck with a handgun and an AR-15 rifle. Deputies then stopped chasing the truck. No deputies were injured.
The Alleghany County Sheriff’s Office says Billings abandoned his truck at some point and stole a Chevrolet Tahoe.
Arrest warrants were issued for Billings and Smoot. On Friday, US Marshals notified the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office that the two fugitives were likely in the county.
Investigating detectives discovered Billings had an ex-girlfriend who lived in an apartment on Gulf Boulevard in Treasure Island.
On Saturday, detectives were near the apartment conducting surveillance when they found Smoot and arrested him.
The sheriff’s office then learned Billings was inside the apartment armed with a machete, a handgun, a .223 caliber AR-15 rifle and a pipe bomb. Witnesses told detectives that Billings said he was “not going back to prison and would shoot it out with police before shooting himself.”
The SWAT team responded to the scene and tried speaking with Billings. When that failed, the team used tear gas to try and get him to come out.
When Billings still refused to come out, deputies say they breached the doors of the apartment and used flashbangs. Flames then broke out in the apartment before SWAT team members could go inside.
After firefighters put out the fire, deputies went into the apartment and found Billings on the floor with two AR-15 magazines in his pocket. Billings was alive but severely burned, and was flown to Tampa General Hospital.
Billings is facing charges for attempted first-degree murder on law enforcement, felony conspiracy to commit first-degree murder on law enforcement and possession of a firearm by a felon.
Smoot was arrested for attempted first-degree murder on law enforcement, felony conspiracy to commit first-degree murder on law enforcement, aggravated assault with a gun, aggravated assault with a weapon and fleeing and eluding law enforcement.
“These guys are bad people and they were engaged in activity where they were willing to shoot it out with a cop,” Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said. “We are very fortunate that no one was hurt and no law enforcement were hurt.”
Neighbors told News Channel 8 they saw deputies out in their community starting around 2 p.m. Saturday. The law enforcement “operation” spanned across St. Pete Beach and Treasure Island.
One neighbor told us she was alarmed, especially because she was not told what was happening near her home.
“I live next door so why are they here? Is there something going on where I live?” she said. “You know what, I am not a chicken but I don’t like that and it is right next door.”
Billings was scheduled to have a first appearance Sunday morning, but it was postponed because he remains unconscious in the hospital.
Smoot is expected to have his first appearance Monday afternoon.