BAKERSFIELD — Police investigators were trying to determine if a suspected bank robber was shot and killed by officers, or turned his gun on himself, after leading police on a high-speed pursuit through the streets of Bakersfield on Tuesday morning. In an statement released by Public Information Officer Sergeant Joe Grubbs today, it was reported that the fatal shot was determined to be self inflicted.
The suspect, identified as 26-year-old Lancaster resident Leland Kane Smithson, died from a single gunshot to the head.
According to the Bakersfield Police Department, Smithson, dressed in a ski mask and armed with a gun, entered the Wells Fargo Bank branch located at 1300 22nd Street at around 10 a.m. on May 19.
“The suspect contacted an unarmed bank security guard outside the bank, and once inside, ordered the guard to the ground and made entry into the vault,” Sergeant Joe Grubbs said. “The suspect then fled the scene, heading eastbound on 23rd Street, where officers spotted him and began their pursuit.” Smithson led officers through downtown Bakersfield until he collided with a tree in the 1000 block of East 18th Street near Owens Street.
From there, a shootout ensued, ending with Smithson sustaining a single fatal gunshot wound to the head.
During their investigation, officers said they found a loaded firearm and an undisclosed amount of cash taken from the bank inside the vehicle Smithson was driving. One officer has been placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of an internal investigation. But the officer who did return fire, according to Grubbs, did not hit Smithson.