Mortally wounded, man drives to Wellsville police station

WELLSVILLE – A Lorain man shot by a passing motorist on Clover Alley died from his injuries Tuesday night, and police were searching for his assailant.

Taru L. Smith, 36, was northbound on Clover just minutes before 6 p.m. when someone in another vehicle fired between four and five shots, striking the Lorain man several times, according to police Lt. Ed Wilson.

The other vehicle, thought to be a late model white Mazda driven by a dark-skinned black man, fled the scene, while Smith continued driving, turning onto 12th Street, crossing Main Street and driving to the front of the village police department.

There, the SUV Smith was driving struck the rear of a parked car that had been driven by Cheryl Rodgers, mother of village police officer Steve Rodgers, who was on duty.

Mrs. Rodgers was standing either on the sidewalk next to her vehicle or walking up the steps to the police station when the other car struck hers, according to a preliminary report from her husband, Harry, who said she was delivering food to their son and the other officers.

Visibly distraught, Mrs. Rodgers was comforted by her husband and others after she completed a statement at the police department.

Smith was taken from the scene by Lifeteam ambulance to East Liverpool City Hospital, where he died from his wounds. Wilson could not immediately describe the nature of Smith’s injuries.

As of last night, police had no motive for the shooting but did not rule out drug-related issues.

“We can’t say what caused it. We have no clue. We can’t blame drugs at this time,” Wilson said, adding it is possible Smith had been at a residence in the area from which he was coming.

Smith was no stranger to the Columbiana County legal system, having been scheduled to go on trial next week in county Common Pleas Court on two counts of felony drug possession.

Last November, he was taken into custody on a warrant for drug possession during a raid by law enforcement agencies on a home at 906 Commerce St. in Wellsville.

In East Liverpool Municipal Court, Smith also had appeared five separate times for possession of marijuana.

Although no one else was injured in the shooting Tuesday, a bullet hole was found in a truck parked on Clover Alley.

An agent from the Bureau of Criminal Investigation and Identification (BCII) placed bright yellow markers on the truck door as well as on the street, where spent shell casings were found.

Wilson said he was uncertain if Smith was armed, with the BCII set to begin a search of his vehicle at the time of this report.

In addition to village police and the BCII, the county’s homicide task force was called in to assist with the investigation, and county investigator Clark Doran was also on the scene.

The scene of the shooting on Clover Alley as well as Main Street between 11th and 12th streets were cordoned off as a crime scene, with yellow tape stretched across the sidewalks and fire trucks positioned to block traffic.

Several people who live nearby said they heard nothing, while others reported hearing the gunshots.

One woman said she had just called the police regarding her husband, against whom she has a restraining order, just as the department was called for the shooting incident. She said some thought mistakenly that the shooting involved her and her husband.

Wilson said Smith’s family members were en route from the Cleveland area last night.