Cordele man convicted in shootout with cops in Perry sentenced to 120 years in prison

A Houston County jury found a Cordele man guilty Thursday of attempted murder and assaulting police officers in 2018.

James Lonnie Smith, 44, faces a 120 years in prison after jurors in Houston County Superior Court convicted him of attempted malice murder, eight counts of aggravated assault on a public safety officer and two counts of having a firearm during commission of a felony, according to a statement from the Houston County District Attorney’s Office.

The charges stemmed from a May 6, 2018 incident when Smith was apparently hiding from the GBI in a Perry motel while wanted for murder in Cordele, the GBI told Houston County sheriff’s deputies.

The Houston County Sheriff’s Response Team, led by a sergeant and corporal, went to the motel with a search warrant at about 4 a.m. and tried to use a key card to unlock the door, according to the statement. When the card didn’t work, the SRT officers told Smith they were outside with a search warrant.

That’s when the bullets began to fly, according to the statement. Shots came from the motel room through the window where the officers were standing. As the deputies began to retreat, Smith allegedly kept firing at the sergeant and corporal at close range, court evidence showed.

Smith finally surrendered after the deputies fired chemical gas rounds into the room, the statement said. When the officers searched the room they found where Smith had camped out next to the door and recovered more guns along with bags of extra ammunition.

The jury deliberated for 90 minutes before deciding Smith was guilty, according to the statement. Superior Court Judge Katherine Lumsden sentenced Smith after considering past charges including a 1998 rape conviction and a 2012 conviction of aggravated assault.

“I am grateful for the hard work by my office, the GBI and officers involved,” said Houston County DA William Kendall in the release. “I am also grateful that the jury returned a verdict that demonstrates the truth and that Judge Lumsden passed down a sentence that will keep this heinous individual out of society.”