A 27-year veteran of the Iowa State Patrol was shot and killed during an attempt to end an hours-long standoff with an armed man in Grundy Center, the Iowa Department of Public Safety said Saturday.
Sgt. Jim Smith, described as "a hero" by the head of the Iowa Department of Public Safety, was fatally shot while attempting to arrest Michael Thomas Lang, 41, of Grundy Center, authorities said.
Lang, who ran unsuccessfully for Grundy County sheriff in 2020, was charged with first-degree murder and is being held on a $1 million cash bond. He suffered multiple gunshot wounds during the standoff and was hospitalized in critical condition, police said.
"Sgt. Jim Smith died a hero ... he sacrificed himself protecting others," Stephan Bayens, commissioner of the Department of Public Safety, said as he led off a Saturday news conference at Grundy Center High School.
"Sgt. Jim Smith was a friend. Sgt. Jim Smith was a brother. Sgt. Jim Smith was a son. Sgt. Jim Smith was a husband. Sgt. Jim Smith was a dad. Sgt. Jim Smith was a protector of the innocent. Sgt. Jim Smith was a guardian of justice. Sgt. Jim Smith was a man of God," Bayens said in an emotion-filled statement. "Sgt. Jim Smith, and I'm going to keep saying his name until his sacrifice has been seared upon the hearts of anyone that can hear my voice."
To honor Smith, Gov. Kim Reynolds announced she would order all flags in Iowa to be flown at half-staff from sunrise to sunset on the day of his burial. Some already were at half-staff in Grundy Center on Saturday afternoon.
She released a statement Saturday addressing the killing.
“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. “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.”
At the news conference, Mitch Mortvedt, assistant director of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, described a tense chain of events before and after Smith's death. According to Mortvedt, about 7:22 p.m. Friday, Grundy Center police attempted to stop a vehicle driven by Lang, who the officers believed had been barred from driving. Lang instead fled, and a chase ensued into southeast Grundy Center.
Lang pulled over on 250th Avenue, exited his vehicle and assaulted a Grundy Center police officer while yelling "shoot me" multiple times, Mortvedt said. He said Lang disarmed the officer, took his Taser and radio, and put the officer in a chokehold.
A Grundy County deputy arrived to assist and drew his firearm, commanding Lang to put his hands up. Lang instead yelled "come get me," got back in his vehicle and drove off, Mortvedt said.
Law enforcement officials pursued Lang but eventually lost sight of him and proceeded to his home in the 300 block of G Avenue in Grundy Center. There, officers saw Lang's vehicle and Lang entering his home through the garage, Mortvedt said.
Lang's father arrived and informed officers that "his son had multiple firearms inside the residence, including a .410-caliber shotgun," Mortvedt said.
A perimeter was set up around the house and surrounding areas, and neighbors were evacuated. About 8:55 p.m., an "entry team" consisting of four Iowa State Patrol troopers and a Hardin County sheriff's K-9 unit arrived, Mortvedt said.
Officers announced themselves and entered the home. Mortvedt said that as the entry team was "clearing" the upstairs of the house, Smith was hit by gunfire.
"Members of the entry team observed Lang emerge from the doorway holding a black pump-action shotgun," he said.
Some members of the entry team removed Smith from the residence while others retreated to the basement, where they heard Lang make "several statements" about shooting Smith and "expressed the desire to shoot more police officers," Mortvedt said.
Lang barricaded himself in the house until about 11:50 p.m., when an Iowa State Patrol tactical team "attempted to make entry into the residence with an armored personnel carrier," Mortvedt said. The armored carrier was one of two such vehicles that had been in use for only a few weeks, he said.
Lang fired on the vehicle, and members of the tactical unit fired back, striking him multiple times.
Police then took Lang into custody and transported him to the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics, where he was listed in critical condition, Mortvedt said. No other injuries were reported.
Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller said in a Saturday statement that he was saddened by Smith's death.
"He was a dedicated public servant and courageous law enforcement officer," Miller said. "My heart goes out to his family and friends, as well as to his colleagues on the Iowa State Patrol."
U.S. Rep. Ashley Hinson issued a statement on Twitter, saying, "I was heartbroken to learn that Sgt. Jim Smith died in the line of duty yesterday. This is a terrible loss."
She asked for prayers for his family, friends and the Iowa State Patrol.
"We can never take the selfless sacrifice our brave law enforcement officers make every day for granted," she wrote.
Smith was the 11th trooper in Iowa State Patrol history to be killed in the line of duty and the first in almost 10 years, according to the Iowa Department of Public Safety. The most recent previous death was on Sept. 20, 2011, when Trooper Mark Toney died in a car crash in Warren County as he attempted to make a traffic stop.
Smith was only the second Iowa trooper to die in a shooting in the line of duty. The first was Trooper Oran "Nanny" Pape, who was one of the "Original 50" Iowa patrolmen. He was shot and killed on April 29, 1936, by a suspect believed to have stolen a vehicle, according to the Department of Public Safety.
The department's headquarters in Des Moines is named after Pape.
Smith is the third Iowa state public safety employee to be killed on the job in the past three weeks. Two employees at the Anamosa State Penitentiary, registered nurse Lorena Schulte, 50, and correctional officer Robert McFarland, 46, died March 23 after allegedly being attacked by inmates who were attempting to escape the prison, state authorities say.