Iowa State Patrol Sgt. Jim Smith killed in Grundy Center standoff while protecting others

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IOWA– On Saturday, April 10th, the Iowa Department of Public Safety announced that a 27-year-old veteran of the Iowa State Patrol was shot and killed during an attempt to end an hours-long standoff with an armed gunman in Grundy Center. 

According to reports, Sgt. Jim Smith was fatally shot while attempting to arrest 41-year-old Michael Thomas Lang, of Grundy Center, authorities said.

Commissioner of the Department of Public Safety, Stephan Bayens, held a news conference at the Grundy Center High School to report on the shooting. 

Bayens said:

“Sgt. Jim Smith died a hero … he sacrificed himself protecting others,” 

Bayens, who was very emotional spoke about Sgt. Smith, saying:

“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,”

He went on to say:

“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.”

During that news conference, the assistant director of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigations, Mitch Mortvedt, described the events that unfolded before and after Sgt. Smith’s death. 

Mortvedt stated that at about 7:22 p.m. on Friday, April 9th, Grundy Center police attempted to stop a vehicle driven by Lang, who the officers believed had been barred from driving. Instead of complying, Lang 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, Des Moines Register reported.

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.

During the chase, law enforcement officers lost sight of Lang, but headed to his home in the 300 block of G Avenue in Grundy Center, in the hopes that he would flee there. Officers were correct, and when they arrived, they saw Lang’s vehicle and Lang entering his home through his garage. 

Lang’s father arrived and informed officers that:

“his son had multiple firearms inside the residence, including a .410-caliber shotgun,” 

Based off of this information, officers set up a perimeter around the house and surrounding areas. Officers then began evacuating the neighbors in the area. 

It is reported that around 8:55 p.m., an “entry team” consisting of four Iowa State Patrol troopers and a Hardin County sheriff’s K-9 unit arrived.

According to reports, officers announced themselves and entered the home. While the entry team was “clearing” the upstairs of the house, Sgt. Smith was hit by gunfire. 

Mortvedt said:

“Members of the entry team observed Lang emerge from the doorway holding a black pump-action shotgun,”

Des Moines Register reported that 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”.

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Mortvedt said that 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”.  

Lang still refused to surrender, and fired on the vehicle. Members of the tactical unit fired back, striking him multiple times.

At this point police were able to take Lang into custody and transported him to the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics. He was listed in critical condition. No other injuries were reported from the incident.

Several political figures weighed in on the death of Sgt. Smith, including Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, who said in a statement on Saturday that he was saddened by Smith’s death.

Miller said:

“He was a dedicated public servant and courageous law enforcement officer,”

He continued:

“My heart goes out to his family and friends, as well as to his colleagues on the Iowa State Patrol.”

Des Moines Register reported that 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 Sgt Smiths murder, saying:

“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 continued:

“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.” 

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 went on to say:

“We can never take the selfless sacrifice our brave law enforcement officers make every day for granted,”

According to the Iowa Department of Public Safety, Sgt. 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. Prior to his death, Trooper Mark Toney died in a car crash in Warren County as he attempted to make a traffic stop, on September 20, 2011.

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.

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