Monday, April 12, 2021

Hundreds salute processional carrying Iowa State Patrol trooper killed in Grundy Center stand-off

(Radio Iowa) - On Sunday, hundreds lined the highway into Independence as the hearse carrying the body of 51-year-old Iowa State Patrol Sergeant Jim Smith passed by. Smith was shot to death late Friday night during a stand-off with a Grundy Center man. Iowa Public Safety Commissioner Stephen Bayens says Smith died a hero.

"He was shot and killed, attempting to arrest a barricaded subject. He sacrificed himself protecting others."

Smith, a 27-year veteran of the patrol, was the leader of a regional tactical unit and had entered the Grundy Center home of Michael Lang with a team on Friday night when he was shot to death. Lang was taken into custody after another gun fight three hours later. Authorities say he was in critical condition at the University of Iowa Hospitals after surgery for multiple gunshot wounds. The public safety commissioner paid tribute to Sergeant Smith during a news conference on Saturday.

"Sergeant Jim Smith was a guardian of justice," Bayens said. "...I'm going to keep saying his name until his sacrifice is seared upon the hearts of anyone that can hear my voice."

Smith is survived by a wife and two children. Smith, who has been stationed at the patrol's Oelwein office since 1996, is the first trooper to be shot to death while on duty since 1936. The man charged with murdering Smith Friday night was known to authorities, according to the Division of Criminal Investigation. The Des Moines Register reports Lang had recently been cited for trespassing at a Grundy Center bar where he had been banned due to belligerent behavior. Court records show he was charged with third offense drunk driving in 2009, a felony. Lang unsuccessfully ran for sheriff as a Democrat in 2020. Authorities say Lang's father went to his son's house early in the stand-off and told officers his son had several guns inside, including a shotgun.

Smith was part of a team that entered Lang's home at about 9 p.m. Friday. Mitch Mortvedt, Assistant Director of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, delivered a briefing on the case Saturday afternoon.

"After Sergeant Smith was shot, members of the entry team observed Lang emerge from the doorway, holding a black, pump action shotgun," he says. "Two members of the entry team that were with Sergeant Smith retreated into the basement, while other members of the entry team pulled Sergeant Smith from the residence. Lang then barricaded himself inside the residence and refused to come out."

Just before midnight, authorities used an armored vehicle to batter into Lang's house.

"During the entry, Lang shot several rounds at the personnel carrier and three members of the tactical team returned fire, striking Lang multiple times," Mortvedt says.

Lang has been charged with one count of first degree murder and is being held on a one MILLION dollar bond. The chain of events began shortly before 7:30 Friday night when a Grundy Center policeman attempted to make a traffic stop, but Mortvedt says Lang sped away, then stopped in an area southeast of Grundy Center and assaulted the officer.

"During the assault, Lang yelled, 'Shoot me,' multiple times to this officer," Mortvedt says. "Lang disarmed the officer of his Taser, removed his radio and put the officer in a chokehold."

Mortvedt says a Hardin County deputy who arrived at that scene tried to arrest Lang, but Lang got back in his vehicle and sped back into Grundy Center. The deputy found the vehicle parked outside Lang's house, saw Lang walking inside and called for back-up. Iowa Department of Public Safety Commissioner Stephan Bayens says Smith's death is a horrific loss to his family and his co-workers.

"We are hurting. We are angry, but rest assured we're not broken," he says. "We will continue to shoulder the burdens of our communities while carrying our own."

Smith was the leader of one of the patrol's Tactical Teams and becomes the second state trooper in the history of the State Patrol to be shot and killed in the line of duty. The first was Trooper Oran Pape, who was killed in 1936 as he pursued a suspect.

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