Iowa State Patrol Trooper Killed in Standoff Was 27-Year Veteran; Suspect Remains in Critical Condition

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GRUNDY CENTER, Iowa — An Iowa State Patrol trooper was fatally shot during a standoff in Grundy Center, the Department of Public Safety announced Saturday.

Sgt. Jim Smith, a 27-year veteran of the Iowa State Patrol, was shot and killed attempting to arrest 41-year-old Michael Thomas Lang, who barricaded himself inside his residence in Grundy Center Friday night, according to DPS Commissioner Stephan Bayens. Lang is charged with first-degree murder for Smith’s death and is currently hospitalized after law enforcement shot him multiple times.

“Sgt. Jim Smith died a hero,” said Bayens. “He sacrificed himself protecting others.”  

Sgt. Jim Smith (WHO 13)

The standoff began after a Grundy Center police officer attempted to pull over Lang at 7:22 p.m. Mitch Mortvedt, assistant director for the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, said Lang is barred from driving and the local officer recognized him on the road.

“Lang fled from the Grundy Center police and he was chased into an area southeast of town. He pulled over onto 250th Avenue, exited his vehicle and assaulted the Grundy Center police officer who chased him,” said Mortvedt.

During the assault, Lang allegedly told the officer to shoot him. Lang then disarmed the officer of his taser and put the officer in a chokehold, Mortvedt said. A Grundy County deputy responded to the area and witnessed the officer recovering from the incident and allegedly saw Lang in the area.

“The deputy drew his weapon and gave commands to Lang to put his hands up. Lang did not comply, yelling, ‘come get me,’ and he subsequently got into his vehicle and fled the area,” said Mortvedt.

The deputy pursued Lang back into Grundy Center and went to Lang’s residence at 305 G. Avenue. The deputy saw Lang enter his residence through the garage and requested backup. Law enforcement responded to the residence and established a perimeter around the home.

The standoff took place at the residence of 41-year-old Michael Thomas Lang, located at 305 G. Avenue in Grundy Center. (WHO 13)

Lang’s father arrived to the house and informed law enforcement that his son had multiple firearms inside the home, according to Mortvedt.

At 8:55 p.m., four Iowa State Patrol troopers and a Hardin County canine unit entered the residence through the garage.

“As the entry team began to clear the upstairs of the residence, Sgt. Jim Smith was hit by gunfire coming from inside the residence. After Sgt. Smith was shot, members of the entry team observed Lang emerge from the doorway holding a black pump-action shotgun. Two members of the entry team that were with Sgt. Smith retreated into the basement, while other members of the entry team pulled Sgt. Smith from the residence. Lang then barricaded himself inside the residence and refused to come out,” said Mortvedt.

Lang remained barricaded inside the home until 11:50 p.m. when an Iowa State Patrol tactical team forced its way into the residence with an armored vehicle, Mortvedt said.

“During the entry, Lang shot multiple rounds at the personnel carrier, and three members of the tactical team returned gunfire, striking Lang multiple times. Lang was subsequently taken into custody by Iowa State Patrol tactical team members,” said Mortvedt.

Lang was transported to University of Iowa Hospitals, where he underwent surgery for multiple gunshot wounds and remains in critical condition. He is being held on a $1 million bond.

Smith was taken Grundy County Memorial Hospital and was pronounced dead from a single gunshot wound, according to Mortvedt.

Smith is the 11th trooper to die in the line of duty in the history of the Iowa State Patrol. The last trooper to die was on Sept. 20, 2011. Trooper Mark Toney died in a crash in Warren County as he tried to make a traffic stop. The shooting death is just the second in the history of the patrol, according to law enforcement records. The other trooper shot and killed was Oran “Nanny” Pape in 1936.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds released a statement following Smith’s death.

“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,” said Reynolds. “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.” 

Reynolds has ordered all flags in Iowa to be flown at half-staff on the day of Smith’s funeral. A date has not yet been announced.

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