Local News

Sunday, Dec 22 2013 08:15 PM

Man who died in custody had pulled his life together

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    l-r Broox (4 mos), Tommy Smoot, 27, Ashley Smoot, 31, Hudson Graham, 5

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BY STEVE LEVIN Californian staff writer slevin@bakersfield.com

Tommy Smoot comes from a big family where everybody knows everything about everyone.

So they knew the double demons of alcohol and methamphetamine had caused him problems before.

But they also knew that for the past two years the 27-year-old kept those demons at bay through regular AA meetings, church attendance and showering affection on his 4-month-old son, Broox.

What no one knows is how Smoot ended up dead Saturday while in the custody of a Kern County Sheriff's deputy.

According to the sheriff's office, deputies were called to the 600 block of Francis Street in Oildale about 6:30 a.m. after multiple residents said a man in the neighborhood was yelling for help.

One of the residents saw Smoot rolling around in a yard, and then doing push-ups.

According to a sheriff's news release, a deputy arrived at 6:34, made contact with Smoot, determined he was under the influence of alcohol and narcotics, handcuffed him without incident and put him in a car for transport to the downtown jail.

On the way, the deputy noticed Smoot was in medical distress. The deputy stopped in the 800 block of North Chester Avenue and performed basic life support procedures.

Emergency personnel with the Kern County Fire Department and Hall Ambulance arrived a short time later. Smoot was taken to Memorial Hospital where he died at 7:34 a.m.

"He was yelling for help. Why wasn't there a paramedic and an ambulance with the deputy?" asked Smoot's aunt, Lisa Boyer, who was with more than a dozen of Smoot's relatives Sunday evening for a somber cookout of burgers and brats at an uncle's Oildale home.

"I don't know why they didn't call for a paramedic if he was yelling for help."

The sheriff's department didn't return numerous calls Sunday.

Smoot's wife Ashley, who turned 31 Sunday, said her husband had been clean from drugs and alcohol for two years.

He worked in construction or the oilfields; whenever there was work he took it, including the apprentice electrician position he'd just started.

He helped take care of Broox and his wife's 5-year-old son, Hudson Graham. The family had moved to Francis Street four months ago.

"Tommy really cared about being the man of the house and keeping his family together," his wife said. "He was very proud of that.

"He was a good husband and he loved his kids and he loved me."

But they had a fight Friday night, and Tommy left. He didn't return and she went to find him. When she did, she smelled acohol on his breath.

She took the children and went to spend the night at her parents' home.

"I was upset about the situation," she said Sunday. "This was not normal for Tommy. Tommy had been sober for two years. I don't know if something just took him over."

She said Tommy had high blood pressure, and did suffer from anxiety. He did not take medication for either, she said, because he wanted to be clean of all drugs.

The oldest of four brothers, Tommy graduated from Centennial High School. He and his brothers, and a half-sister, were raised by their mother Samantha.

About two years ago Tommy reached bottom, according to his cousin Jason Schufletowski, of Trona.

"He was in a situation where he was using," Schufletowski said. "He got the fear of God in him."

Smoot drove to Trona to spend time with his cousin.

"I was showing him a lot of love and getting him to see that he had to love himself," Schufletowski said. "He had to figure out there were people who loved him and would do anything for him."

Smoot returned to Oildale, attended Freedom House meetings and then AA, and worked to free himself from his addiction.

By Saturday morning, he was dead.

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