A Suffolk grand jury declined to indict an Amityville teenager who shot his mother’s boyfriend to death last week, finding that the killing was a legal act of self-defense.
Tephonte Smith, 18, had been charged with second-degree murder in the death of Rashad Woolridge, 28, on Aug. 16. He was freed after the grand jury declined to indict and returned a no true bill on Friday.
“On behalf of Mr. Smith and his family, we’re obviously thankful the system worked,” said his attorney, George Duncan of Central Islip. “We’re grateful the grand jury and the police and the district attorney all did their jobs.”
The Suffolk district attorney’s office confirmed the no true bill and gave a synopsis of what happened in the home that Smith and Woolridge shared with Smith’s mother, Stephanie Sims, 33, but otherwise declined to comment.
Duncan and the district attorney’s office said the incident began around noon with a fight between Woolridge and Sims, the latest in a occasionally violent relationship. There was an order of protection in effect at the time directing Woolridge to not contact Sims.
Smith physically broke up the fight between his mother and her boyfriend. Woolridge left the house and Smith went back to his bedroom in the basement.
Less than 10 minutes later, Woolridge came back in the house and went to the basement yelling for Smith.
In a statement filed in court, Sims said she heard Woolridge yell in the basement, “Where you at, Tephonte?” Then she said she heard a shot.
“I ran downstairs and saw Rashad lying face down on the floor,” she said in the statement to police.
Smith had shot Woolridge in the neck with a shotgun. When police came to the scene, they found Woolridge dead with a loaded handgun still in his hand and the shotgun on the floor nearby.
Smith, who had no criminal record, surrendered to the police later that day with Duncan, his grandfather and his pastor.
“It’s a loss for everyone involved,” Duncan said, including Smith.
“He’s still upset over the incident,” Duncan said. “He’s known the deceased a long time. He’s shocked and horrified.”
Sims also is still coping with what happened, Duncan said.
“She’s still in mourning and upset about her loss, but she’s grateful her son is safe,” Duncan said.
Both Smith and Sims were unavailable for comment.