116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
GRUNDY CENTER — Relatives of Iowa State Patrol Sgt. Jim Smith let his killer know Monday just what kind of a man he was.
At a sentencing hearing for Michael Thomas Lang, 42, who a jury over a month ago convicted of first-degree murder, was handed a term of life in prison without parole for killing Smith during an April 2021 standoff at Lang’s Grundy Center home.
Judge Joel Dalrymple symbolically added another 30 years to the sentence for convictions of attempted murder for shooting at an armored vehicle driver during the end of the standoff and assault on an officer for disarming and choking a Grundy Center police officer during the traffic stop that started it.
Lang declined to comment to the court during the hearing, which was held in Grundy County District Court. More than two dozen uniformed troopers attended, lining the walls of the courtroom.
Family members wore T-shirts with “462,” Smith’s trooper number, inside a Batman logo. Smith, 51, was born in Cedar Rapids, attended Kirkwood Community College and the University of Northern Iowa, and lived in Independence.
“The world lost a true hero,” Michelle Suchomel, his sister, told the court, recounting how they grew up playing Star Wars, Star Trek and super heroes, and how Smith followed his dream of entering law enforcement. She talked about her brother’s faith in God and how he would impress on others — especially those he arrested — to turn their lives around.
“Jim was great at his job and loved being a part of the Iowa State Patrol and tactical team,” the sister said. She said he was usually the first to go through a door and wanted his team behind him to protect them as much as possible.
“That is exactly what he was doing that fateful day, and he would not have had it any other way,” she said.
Katherine Smith, his widow, said Lang’s actions ripped her family apart.
“I didn’t blame God for what happened. Evil people do evil things. I only blame this man,” she said, looking at Lang seated at the defense table in the courtroom. “I am thankful he will spend the rest of his life in prison. This man who clearly hates law enforcement, who laughed about killing my husband, won’t be able to hurt anyone else, and for that I am grateful.”
Lang also was ordered to pay $150,000 in restitution to Smith’s estate.
The sentence came after the judge dismissed a defense motion for a new trial, which argued the court should have allowed self-defense and stand-your-ground language in the jury instructions.
Authorities said Lang refused to pull over for an April 9, 2021, speeding stop and instead lured the police officer into a rural area where he knocked away his Taser and began struggling with him. A passerby and a sheriff’s deputy intervened, and Lang drove home and refused to come out for police.
Smith was shot in the chest and leg with slugs from a shotgun when he and others attempted to enter the kitchen at Lang’s house to try to apprehend him.
At trial, jurors heard testimony that Lang told officers at this house that he had done “a favor” to Smith by shooting him the chest, and that he would shoot other officers in the face with a deer slug.
A jury deliberated about two hours before convicting him.