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DETAILS: Authorities identify State Patrol sergeant killed in Grundy Center standoff with barricaded suspect

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thumbnail_James Smith
Sgt. Jim Smith (credit: Iowa State Patrol)
Michael Lang
Michael Lang
Grundy Press conference

GRUNDY CENTER, Iowa (KWWL) - Iowa State Patrol has identified a Sergeant who died during a standoff in Grundy Center on Friday night.

During a 2:30 p.m. press conference on Saturday, authorities provided details into the events leading up to and following the trooper's death.

The fallen patrol sergeant has been identified as 27-year veteran Sergeant Jim Smith.

Authorities say that Sergeant Smith was shot and killed attempting to arrest a barricaded suspect, who has been identified as 41-year-old Michael Lang of Grundy Center.

"Sergeant Jim Smith was a protector of the innocent. Sergeant Jim Smith was a guardian of justice," an Iowa State Patrol Commissioner Stephan Bayens said in an emotional and passionate statement at Saturday's press conference. Bayens said that the men and women of the patrol are hurting from the loss of Sergeant Smith.

Mitch Mortvedt, Assistant Director for Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, provided details on the standoff. It started as an attempted routine traffic stop by Grundy Center Police before 7:30 p.m. on Friday, when Lang fled and was chased by law enforcement. Lang eventually pulled over, got out of his car, and assaulted the officer who chased him.

Mortvedt said that Lang yelled "shoot me" multiple times, before disarming the officer and putting him in a chokehold. A responding deputy to the scene drew his weapon and told Lang to put his hands up, but Lang said "come get me" and got back in his car. The Deputy continued to pursue Lang but lost sight of him.

The Deputy then went to Lang's residence in Grundy Center, where he saw Lang entering through the garage. Responding law enforcement set up a perimeter around the house. Lang's father arrived and informed officers that Lang had multiple firearms inside the house.

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After the perimeter was set, four Iowa State Patrol troopers and a K9 unit entered through the door of the garage. As they were clearing the upstairs of the house, Sergeant Smith was shot by Lang, who was seen emerging from a doorway with a shotgun. After the entry team retreated to the basement and removed Smith from the residence, Lang barricaded himself inside and indicated that he would shoot more law enforcement.

Lang remained barricaded in the residence for several hours until a tactical team made entry around 11:50 p.m. with a wheeled armored personnel carrier, similar to a tank. During the attempted entry, Lang and authorities exchanged gunfire. When Lang shot at the personnel carrier, three tactical team members returned fire, shooting him multiple times.

Sergeant Smith was transported to Grundy County Memorial Hospital where he was pronounced dead. Lang was transported to UIHC in Iowa City where he underwent surgery and authorities say he remains in critical condition.

Lang has been charged with one count of First Degree Murder and is being held on $1 million cash bond. Authorities say the investigation is still ongoing.

"We ask on behalf of Sergeant Smith's family, that you respect their privacy as they grieve this horrific loss of their husband, father, son, and brother," Mortvedt said.

Smith is the 11th Iowa patrol trooper to die in the line of duty. The last death was in September 2011 when trooper Mark Toney died in a crash in Warren County as he tried to make a traffic stop.

Governor Kim Reynolds provided a commemorative statement in honor of Sgt. Smith Saturday afternoon.

“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. 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.” 

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds

Gov. Reynolds will order all flags in Iowa be flown at half-staff from sunrise to sunset on the day of Sergeant Smith's burial.   

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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Andrew Pearce

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