It turns out that Michael Thomas Lang, 41, the man charged with murdering an Iowa trooper, once won the 2020 Democratic primary for sheriff of Grundy County. He did not get near to winning, only netting 22.3 percent of the vote in the general election, but it’s an eye-popping detail amid the death of Sgt. Jim Smith, a 27-year veteran of the Iowa State Patrol.
Authorities say the tragic events started Friday evening, when a Grundy Center Police Department officer tried to perform a traffic stop on Lang. The suspect had been barred from driving. He allegedly fled, then pulled over, exited his vehicle, and assaulted the officer.
“Shoot me!” Lang allegedly yelled multiple times, disarming the officer of a taser, removing the man’s radio, and putting him in a chokehold.
A Grundy County sheriff’s deputy arrived at the scene, and pulled out a gun. Lang allegedly did not comply with orders to put his hands up.
“Come get me,” he allegedly said, before fleeing in his vehicle. The deputy gave chase, eventually getting to Lang’s home, where he found the suspect entering the residence through the garage.
Law enforcement set up a perimeter. The defendant’s father arrived, telling investigators his son had multiple firearms, including a shotgun, authorities said.
Troopers and a Hardin County deputy canine unit eventually made entry through a door of the garage. Lang allegedly shot Smith with a shotgun while the entry team was clearing upstairs. The entry team members got Smith out of there, but Lang barricaded himself in the home. The suspect allegedly continued to voice a desire to shoot more officers.
At 11:50 p.m. an Iowa state patrol tactical team attempted to enter the residence with a wheeled armored personnel carrier. Lang allegedly shot at it. Officers returned fire at the suspect, who survived and was taken into custody. No one else was injured.
Smith is remembered and mourned as a hero.
Law enforcement officers pledge to serve the public and put their lives on the line daily. We collectively mourn the line of duty death of Sergeant Jim Smith on Friday, April 9, 2021.
— Iowa State Patrol (@iowastatepatrol) April 10, 2021
The ISP recently announced a memorial display at their District 10 Office in the city of Oelwein.
We have posted a memorial display of Sergeant Jim Smith’s patrol car at the District 10 Office – 15239 35th Street, Oelwein, IA. If you wish to honor Sergeant Jim Smith, please feel free to stop by.
Any items left will be collected for the family. 2/2
— Iowa State Patrol (@iowastatepatrol) April 12, 2021
So how did Lang go from running for sheriff to getting charged with first-degree murder and being held on a $1 million bond? To put it gently, he has experience with law enforcement, just not the kind expected of a would-be official. He was previously convicted of operating while intoxicated, and had a history of alleged public intoxication, according to KCCI. He was also charged in 1999 with burglary, though that got dropped to just operating a vehicle without consent.
Alcohol seemed to have been a theme in his life. At least two people who knew him seemed to agree that he was a “nice” person–when he was sober.
“When I found out this morning, I was so mind-blown,” a friend, speaking on condition of anonymity, told KCCI. “Like, what the hell happened?”
He denied that Lang was a “monster,” but acknowledged the defendant needed to pay.
“When he’s drinking, he’s a whole different person,” Susan Schmidt, a bartender at Scotty’s Saloon in Grundy Center, Iowa, told The Des Moines Register. She said she knew Lang his entire life, and that he drank heavily since high school. Both the former and new owners of Scotty’s banned him from the business, but he kept coming back for some time, even after he got cited for trespassing.
“He was just terrorizing us,” Schmidt said.
[Screengrab via KCCI]
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