Sheriff: Brewton man punches Fire Chief trying to rescue wife, hits fire vehicle

(Image: WPMI) Brewton man Christopher Wade Smith allegedly punches Fire Chief trying to rescue wife, strikes firefighter's vehicle

A volunteer fire chief is assaulted in the line of duty, and tonight, the suspect is behind bars.

It happened last night in the Appleton community in Escambia County, just outside Brewton.

Authorities say the man punched the fire chief, when he stepped in and tried to save the man's wife. She later died. Investigators say the suspect and the fire chief have a history.

The fire chief's injuries are pretty serious. He may have to have surgery on his eye.

Investigators say there's a lot more to this story. The man they arrested could be charged with homicide for the death of his own wife.

Chris Smith is charged with assault first degree and criminal mischief and this is why.

Appleton volunteer fire Chief Mike Tyler showed us his injuries.

On the advice of his attorney he declined an on camera interview but allowed us to take pictures of his face. Without giving details Tyler admits to an ongoing dispute with now suspect Chris Smith.

Smith had once worked with the fire department and his wife was also a volunteer.

Investigators say the couple had a history of domestic disputes. Then this week came another 911 call.

"As they waited on law enforcement they found out that the person who was down may not be breathing so a decision was made to go ahead and enter the residence without law enforcement," said Chief Deputy Mike Lambert.

Chief Tyler says when he arrived on scene smith was performing CPR on his wife. Investigators say she was having an asthma attack.

When he stepped in to assist that's when he says he was "sucker punched."

"We wound up charging Christopher Smith with assault first degree. In Alabama it’s against the law to assault a law enforcement officer, a firefighter or an EMS personnel," said Lambert.

Minutes later Smith's wife passed away. Investigators say Smith may be in deeper trouble.

"If it comes back that he caused her death then, certainly there you go we would be looking along the lines of a homicide. Right now we are just doing all the precautionary measures and doing a thorough investigation to find out the facts," said Lambert.

Smith will likely remain in jail until after the autopsy is completed. Those

result may not come until Monday.

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