Flags, people line funeral route for slain Iowa trooper
INDEPENDENCE — Hundreds of law enforcement officers from around the state and elsewhere saluted Friday as they filed past the flag-draped casket of Iowa State Patrol Sgt. Jim Smith, who was shot and killed last week while trying to arrest a man barricaded inside his home.
The funeral, which was open to the public, drew a standing room only crowd to the high school gymnasium in Smith’s hometown of Independence, about 35 miles (56 kilometers) north of Cedar Rapids. Smith, 51, was a 27-year-veteran of the patrol and a married father of two when he was shot and killed April 9 during a standoff with 41-year-old Michael Thomas Lang in Grundy Center.
Lang, who also was shot and critically wounded in the standoff, is charged with first-degree murder.
The Rev. Paul Heppner, who officiated the funeral, described Smith as “a mixture of stern law officer and comedian” who was a devout Christian and loved superheroes, his family and his job .
“Jim’s superpower was his integrity,” Heppner said.
Smith is the second Iowa State Patrol officer to be shot and killed in the line of duty since 1936.
Investigators say the violence that killed Smith began in Lang’s hometown of Grundy Center, 80 miles northeast of Des Moines, after an officer tried to pull him over for suspicion of driving without a valid license. A brief chase ensued, and Lang eventually got out and put the officer in a chokehold, disarmed him of his stun gun and yelled “shoot me!” throughout the scuffle, police have said.
Police say Lang then barricaded himself inside his home with firearms he legally owned despite at least seven arrests for drunken driving or public intoxication over two decades.
Smith, who was the leader of the patrol’s regional tactical team, was among the officers who surrounded the home and later entered to arrest Lang. Investigators say Lang fired a shotgun as the team cleared the upstairs, fatally wounding Smith.
Six months before the standoff, Lang was a candidate for Grundy County sheriff. A construction worker with no law enforcement experience, Lang told a newspaper that “any decent man or woman” would be better than the longtime deputy who went on to win the November election.