116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
WEBSTER CITY — Officers who were with Iowa State Patrol Sgt. Jim Smith testified Wednesday about trying to save his life after he was shot during a standoff in a Grundy Center home in April 2021.
“I thought Jim was gone, but I still knew that I needed to get him to someone who is a professional, and maybe there’s a chance he could be saved,” Trooper Matthew Lively said as the trial for Michael Thomas Lang, the man accused of killing Smith, continued in Hamilton County District Court in Webster City.
Lang, 42, is charged with first-degree murder, attempted murder and assault on a peace officer in the fatal shooting, the struggle during a traffic stop that preceded it and the shootout with officers in an armored vehicle that ended it.
Troopers in an Iowa State Patrol tactical team led by Smith had cleared the garage and basement at Lang’s home after he refused to surrender on the night of April 9, 2021.
Smith and Hardin County K-9 handler Mitchell Kappel were preparing to send police dog Ogon into the kitchen to continue the search for Lang when Lang came out of the dark kitchen and fired a shotgun slug at Smith, striking his collar bone area.
Smith fell back into the garage.
Nearby, Grundy County Sheriff’s Deputy Zachary Anderson said he couldn’t fire his own weapon because other officers where close by. He said his initial instinct was to rush forward.
“I stepped forward, and then I stepped back because I knew I couldn’t go in front of the door. From my training I know that it’s a fatal funnel. If you walk in front of that, you are either going to be a problem or create one,” Anderson said.
Kappel, who had been right next to Smith, initially thought about sending Ogon after Lang.
“I felt if I could get my K-9 into the kitchen that we could have another person into the fight. … I was going to try to get close to the door frame and throw my dog into the kitchen and have him help address the situation,” Kappel said.
But as he prepared to launch Ogon, Kappel testified, he looked up and saw Lang holding a shotgun. They made eye contact. Kappel drew his .40-caliber Glock and fired twice. The shots apparently missed, and Kappel retreated into the basement for cover.
Trooper Lively, also stationed nearby in the garage, told jurors he called out to Smith but got no response.
“I grab him by the top of the shirt lapels here and drag him back from that location … for at least some cover, just to get him out of the line of sight, get him off the ‘X,’” Lively said.
Behind cover in a back room off the garage, Lively did a “blood sweep” looking for Smith’s injury and located the wound. He began applying pressure.
Holding his pistol in one hand, he reached behind himself and unlocked a door to the outside and pulled Smith onto a back patio where they were exposed. Another officer came to help, and they brought him to an ambulance team nearby.
Meanwhile, Kappel and Trooper Jordan Barnes became trapped in the basement because the top of the stairs passed that kitchen door.
As the standoff dragged on, they said they could hear Lang walking around, using the microwave, loading more shells into his shotgun and opening a can. Lang would also call out taunts, telling them to get out of the house.
“He said that he was nice to the first guy by shooting him in the chest, but come sun up, he’s going to shoot us in the face with a deer slug,” Kappel said.
Barnes said he heard Lang say “You can leave. I won’t shoot you in the back. I’ll be a gentleman.”
Later, after brief negotiations over the phone appeared to be fruitless, a tactical team moved on the house, first using a post attached to the front of an armored vehicle to break through a window. That’s when Lang appeared from the kitchen window and fired a slug at the vehicle.
Driver Chass Ossian said he heard the blast and noticed spider webbing on the bullet-resistant windshield.
“If it made it through the windshield, I would have been hit,” Ossian testified.
Other troopers returned fire, and Lang was wounded and detained.
Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation teams said they found four fired shotgun shells, apparently from Lang’s weapon, in the kitchen. In the house they also found two .40-caliber casings from Kappel's pistol, and 24 .223-caliber casings from officers’ rifles. Another 18 casings also were found outside.
The trial, moved to Webster County on a change of venue, is set to continue Thursday.