News


Officer shot by partner was 20-year BART veteran

Tom Smith accidentally killed in Dublin probation search

BART's police chief confirmed today that the officer who died after he was accidentally shot by a colleague on Tuesday was Sgt. Tommy Smith, a 23-year veteran of the department.

At a news conference at BART headquarters in Oakland this morning, Police Chief Kenton Rainey described Smith as a "great detective, husband,

father and friend who touched many lives."

Smith's wife Kellie is the head of the BART Police Department's K-9 unit, and the two have a 6-year-old daughter.

"Professionally and personally, he will be greatly missed," Rainey said.

The shooting happened just before 2 p.m. at the Park Sierra Apartments at 6450 Dougherty Road in Dublin. Smith was taken to Eden Medical Center, where he died a short time later.

Smith and other officers were conducting a probation search at the one-bedroom apartment of 20-year-old John Henry Lee, who was arrested last

Thursday after an early-morning car chase that began in San Leandro and ended in Oakland.

Lee, who police said was driving a car that had been stolen from a spot on BART property, is suspected in a series of recent BART-related robberies, authorities said.

Lee was still in custody when officers arrived at his apartment on Tuesday for the probation search, and the officers knew he wasn't there, Rainey said. There were two BART officers in uniform, five plainclothes BART officers -- including Smith -- and an Alameda County sheriff's deputy, Rainey

said.

The door to the apartment was unlocked, which may have led the officers to believe there was someone else inside, Alameda County sheriff's Sgt. J.D. Nelson said at today's news conference.

Rainey declined to go into specifics about how the shooting happened, including whether the officers had their guns drawn, but did say that in general, officer do sometimes have their guns drawn when doing probation searches because "you never know what's on the other side of the door."

He said the officers were looking for a stolen laptop, a laptop bag and other related items that they believe Lee may have stolen.

Rainey said officers who conduct probation searches like Tuesday's typically wear bulletproof vests, but he did not confirm that Smith was wearing one when he was shot.

He also declined to say whether the officers involved were wearing lapel cameras. He said that under the BART Police Department's policy, lapel

cameras are mandatory for uniformed officers and optional for plainclothes officers.

The Alameda County Sheriff's Office is leading the investigation into the shooting, and the Alameda County District Attorney's Office and the BART police internal affairs unit are participating.

Nelson said the investigation is expected to take at least several weeks.

"The nuts and bolts of the investigation won't come out today," he said.

Rainey said he won't release the name of the officer who shot Smith until next week.

"We want to give him a chance to grieve," the chief said.

"I visited with him last night and he's extremely upset, and we want to give him time to come to grips with what happened ... I said we would get through this together," Rainey said.

Rainey confirmed that Smith has two brothers who work in law enforcement in the Bay Area, and Nelson confirmed that one of those brothers

is an Alameda County sheriff's deputy.

Melissa McRobbie, Jeff Shuttlworth, Sasha Lekach, Bay City News

— Bay City News Service

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by common sense
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 21, 2014 at 6:01 pm

Very tragic. I don't understand why Bart police were there though, the article said the City of Dublin contracts with the Sheriffs office for support. Does this mean BART police are overstaffed?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sam
a resident of Oak Hill
on Jan 21, 2014 at 6:39 pm

BART police were there because the suspect was accused of robberies on BART property.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Lou Stuhle
a resident of California Somerset
on Jan 21, 2014 at 7:06 pm

leave it to some more (who ironically calls himself "common sense") to try and turn a tragedy into a political talking point.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Cholo
a resident of Livermore
on Jan 21, 2014 at 8:03 pm

A very tragic event indeed. May the officer Rest In Peace.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jake
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 21, 2014 at 8:04 pm

(Post deemed inappropriate by Pleasanton Weekly Online staff)


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Pro-Law
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 22, 2014 at 12:00 am

Only BART investigates crimes that originate on BART properties. There have been several robberies committed at BART all by the same suspect. That suspect lived at the residence and it can be assumed they were going to collect evidence related to the robberies. Criminals and the evidence they have don't always stay in the same jurisdiction where the crime occurs. Agencies often go to other jurisdiction to complete a case, and agencies don't hand off cases mid investigation. Lastly, BART officers have the same minimum training as any California officer. It's just a tragic accident that unfortunately happens from time to time when humans are involved.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Diane
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Jan 22, 2014 at 9:43 am

Tragic all around...definitely for the officer that was killed and also tragic for the Bart officer who accidently shot him ...he will live with that forever !


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of Highland Oaks
on Jan 22, 2014 at 3:12 pm

My thoughts are with the officer's wife and family.

Clearly, mistakes were made in this situation. Let's have confidence that they will serve as lessons for future searches.

They might also highlight the need to reevaluate the threshold for searches. In this case, we might question the value of a laptop, a laptop bag and other items not worthy of mention if the search for them places lives in danger.

Mike


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sam
a resident of Oak Hill
on Jan 22, 2014 at 7:31 pm

Mike wrote: "They might also highlight the need to reevaluate the threshold for searches. In this case, we might question the value of a laptop, a laptop bag and other items not worthy of mention if the search for them places lives in danger."

Doesn't apply in this case. This fellow was an armed robbery suspect. The police had no choice but to conduct a search of his apartment.

The SF Chronicle has a story about the capture of the suspect:
(SF Chronicle story: Web Link )


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Cholo
a resident of Livermore
on Jan 24, 2014 at 8:44 pm

I think that needs to be new designs/materials that are more protective and cover the entire head and torso.

The materials are available already. It's time to take another look at the clothes that astronauts use on the moon and outer space.

The new protective clothes could be stretchable and bullet proof.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Cholo
a resident of Livermore
on Jan 25, 2014 at 12:30 pm

Can anybody explain how come the officer's death is considered an "accident"? Is there any reason to believe that he was deliberately killed?


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