A 27-year veteran of the Iowa State Patrol was shot and killed during a violent standoff with a man who fought back against agents in an armored personnel carrier and said he wanted to shoot other officers, authorities said Saturday.
Sgt. Jim Smith was killed Friday night (4/9) in Grundy Center as he and other officers entered the home of Michael Thomas Lang, 41, who fled there after an earlier police pursuit, authorities said.
The standoff ended about midnight Friday when a team of highway patrol troopers in an armored personnel carrier smashed into the home. Lang fired multiple shots at the carrier. Three officers inside the carrier returned fire, hitting the man several times, authorities said.
Lang was hospitalized in critical condition on Saturday. He was charged with first-degree murder and is being held on $1 million bond.
Iowa Department of Public Safety Commissioner Steve Bayens said Smith “died a hero” and “sacrificed himself protecting others.”
“We are hurting, we are angry,” Bayens said. “But rest assured we’re not broken. We will continue to shoulder the burdens of our communities while carrying our own. We will continue to stand in the gap of good and evil because, like Jim, that is what we are called to do.”
Mitch Mortvedt, assistant director of the division of criminal investigation, said events began at 7:22 p.m. on Friday when a Grundy Center officer tried to stop Lang for a traffic violation. Lang was known to Grundy City officers and was not supposed to be driving, he said.
Lang fled but eventually stopped and assaulted the officer, Mortvedt said. During the assault, Lang yelled “Shoot Me” at the officer several times, and Lang disarmed the officer of his gun and stun gun and put him in a chokehold, he added.
A Grundy County deputy arrived and told Lang to drop his gun. Lang instead yelled “Come get me” and got into his vehicle. He ended up at his home, and several law enforcement officers arrived, Mortvedt said.
Lang’s father arrived and told officers his son had multiple weapons in the house.
Four Iowa patrol troopers, including Smith, and a K-9 unit, entered the home, and Smith was shot as officers tried to clear the house, he said. Two members of the team retreated into the basement while other officers pulled Smith out.
Lang barricaded himself for several hours. Officers who were in the basement said Lang made several statements about shooting Smith and “expressed the desire to shoot more police officers,” he said.
About 11:50 p.m., a patrol team tried to enter the home in the armored personnel carrier and exchanged gunfire with Lang, Mortvedt said.
No other officers were injured.
Gov. Kim Reynolds said she plans to order flags flown at half-staff in Smith’s memory.
“It’s with deep sorrow that we recognize the loss of Iowa State Patrol Sgt. Jim Smith, a courageous hero who died in the line of duty,” Reynolds said in a statement Saturday. “Sgt. Jim Smith was a loving husband, father of two, and a pillar of the community. I along with the entire state of Iowa grieve for his family and friends as they try to cope with this devastating loss. Today we are once again reminded of the selfless sacrifices the brave men and women in uniform make. Let us never forget their bravery and that of their loved ones.”
Smith is the 11th trooper to die in the line of duty in the patrol’s history. The last death was on Sept. 20, 2011, when Trooper Mark Toney died in a crash in Warren County as he tried to make a traffic stop.