Fallen BART officer described as can-do, happy family man

Fallen BART officer described as can-do, happy family man - San Jose Mercury NewsBART Sgt. Tom Smith Jr., who was fatally shot by a fellow officer in Dublin on Jan. 21, 2014. (Courtesy BART)Related StoriesJan 22:Mercury News editorial: BART officer's tragic death cries out for answersBART police sergeant shot and killed by fellow officer during search in DublinJan 21:BART officer shooting: Social media reactionBART police officer fatally shot by fellow officer during apartment searchOAKLAND -- Details began to emerge Wednesday of the events that led to the Click On this site fatal shooting Tuesday of a veteran BART police officer during what seemed a routine search of a robbery suspect's home. The suspect was already in custody as several BART and other agency officers went to search his apartment, looking for a laptop, a laptop bag and other personal items been stolen during several robberies on BART property.What happened after the went inside the apartment, where no one was home, and what led to the accidently shooting of Sgt. Tom Smith Jr. still aren't clear. BART police Chief Kenton Rainey was tearful at a Wednesday news conference as he officially announced Smith's death. Smith, led the department's detective division and was with three other officers in the apartment at the time of the shooting Tuesday. "The department is grieving, in shock," Rainey said, describing Smith as a can-do, happy family man. "You just couldn't meet a nicer guy."BART officers were stationed outside Smith's family home in San Ramon early Wednesday and also at the East Bay home of Officer Michael Maes, the officer believed to be the colleague who accidentally shot Smith. A 23-year veteran of law enforcement, Smith was the first officer killed in the line of duty in the transit agency's 42-year history. Gov. Jerry Brown and Attorney General Kamala Harris offered their condolences Wednesday morning."He was a good guy," Rainey said. "A can-do attitude. Very, very supportive of his personnel."Rainey said he'll wait until next week to name the officer who fired the fatal shot, in order to give him time to grieve."He's extremely upset," Rainey said. At least three BART officers, one of them in an unmarked car, were positioned outside of Maes' home on Thursday.One of the officers said the Maes family would not be commenting on the case and asked that the family's privacy be respected.Read and signGuest book in memory of Sgt. Tom Smith Jr.The robbery suspect, John Henry Lee, 20, was in custody at Santa Rita Jail and not home when the shooting happened. Lee has been in custody since he led police officers on a car chase from San Leandro to Oakland last Thursday morning. He was captured by a police dog after crashing his car into a tree and street sign, then trying to run away. Lee, 20, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to one count of second-degree robbery with use of a handgun. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for Feb. 4.According to a probable cause declaration, which was written by Maes, Lee robbed a man at gunpoint in the parking structure at the Fruitvale BART station the morning of Jan. 15.Auto theft suspect John Henry Lee (San Leandro Police Dept. )The victim said he had just parked on the third level and was walking to the elevator when he turned to someone shouting, "Hey."Lee got out of a white Honda Accord pointing a handgun and robbed the man of his wallet, cell phone and laptop bag. BART police later determined that the Accord Lee was driving had been stolen earlier that day from the Hayward BART station.Just after midnight Jan. 16, a San Leandro officer spotted Lee burglarizing a car while the stolen Accord was idling in the roadway facing the wrong direction, according to Maes' declaration. Upon seeing the officer driving toward him, Lee jumped back in the Accord and led the officer on a chase that ended with Lee crashing into a tree and rolling the Accord. Law enforcement officers salute as the body of a BART police officer draped with the American flag is loaded into an Alameda County Sheriff's Corner vehicle at Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley on Jan. 21, 2014. The officer was shot while serving a probation search warrant at a residence in Dublin, according to authorities. (Anda Chu/Staff)He tried to run away and was captured with the help of a police dog, the declaration says. He was placed under arrest at Highland Hospital on the 16th.Lee was placed on three years misdemeanor court probation in October because of a misdemeanor domestic violence battery conviction out of Hayward, according to his charging document.Rainey said a total of eight BART officers were at the scene when Smith was shot. He was one of five plain-clothed detectives who were there; they were joined by two uniformed BART officers, and a uniformed officer from the Alameda County Sheriff's Office who was working for the Dublin Police Department.Sheriff's Sgt. J.D. Nelson, whose agency is leading the investigation into the shooting, said the officers converged on the Park Sierra Apartments, at 6450 Dougherty Road, just before 2 p.m. Tuesday. Nelson said they were looking for the items stolen from BART stations. They began their search by knocking twice on the door; each knock went unanswered, but the door was Suggested Looking at unlocked, so four BART officers, including Smith, stepped inside, Nelson said. Not knowing whether anyone was inside the single-story, one-bedroom apartment, the officers followed protocol and entered with their guns drawn. Nelson said that once inside, one of the officers fired a single shot from his weapon, wounding Smith in the upper body. Rainey said Smith wore a bulletproof vest.Smith later died at Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley. An autopsy is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.Rainey said BART officers are trained to search residences and are called to do so in cases involving crimes committed on BART property. He also said that all uniformed BART officers from the rank of sergeant and below are required to wear a tracking camera. Wearing such a camera lapel is optional for plainclothes detectives.Neither Rainey nor Nelson said whether those required to wear cameras were doing so. Camera lapels were made mandatory by police reform measures taken in the wake of the fatal shooting of Oscar Grant at a BART station platform in 2009."Our officers are trained to conduct this type" of operation, Rainey said. Asked how many times this type of search happens, he didn't give any statistics but said "this was not uncommon.""Police work is dangerous," Rainey said, adding that entering a home is the "most dangerous" type of work police do. "There is nothing routine about it."Officials did not say what kind of firearm was used in the shooting, though Rainey said BART officers typically carry Glock semi-automatic handguns. Some BART officers are permitted to carry different weapons, he said.On Wednesday morning, a trail of blood droplets led up to the front door of the apartment unit where Tuesday's shooting occurred. A man who answered the door at the unit refused any comment.A neighbor, 19-year-old Jimmy Yao, said he moved into the apartment complex three months ago and described Lee as "anti-social" and "a little strange." He also said that he had not seen any police activity in the months leading up to Tuesday. Another neighbor said Lee was seen around the complex only in the past couple of months and wondered whether he had just moved in."We were really surprised when we heard," Elaenil Anbalagan said. "It's very costly (to live) here. We were thinking it was one of the safer communities. Wherever you are, it can happen anytime."Nelson said the officer who fired the shot had more than 10 years experience in law enforcement.The death marked the 36th on-duty officer killed by accidental gunfire in California since 1895, and the first since two Oakland police officers shot and killed an undercover detective in January 2001.Check back for updates.Malaika Fraley contributed to this report. 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