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BART Police Chief Says Fallen Officer Will 'Be Greatly Missed'

Chief Kenton Rainey spoke at a press conference in Oakland this morning about the death of Sergeant Tom Smith of San Ramon.

Screenshot of KPIX CBS 5 news website
Screenshot of KPIX CBS 5 news website
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.

[Related article: Update: BART Officer Killed by Friendly Fire Identified]

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.

Nelson said investigators are still looking into the details of what happened, including how many shots were fired.

"We have a lot of work to do to put it together," 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.

Rainey said BART police officers receive 40 hours of safety training each year -- even more than the 24 hours of training every two years that is required by state law.

The shooting marks the first on-duty death of a BART police officer in the agency's history.

Copyright © 2014 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.
Danielle January 22, 2014 at 03:57 PM
The section 8 housing in Dublin brings criminals into our community. The city tells us that Section 8 housing is needed so the people who work in Dublin can afford to live in Dublin. But Mr. Lee doesn't sound like the kind of hard-working, but less fortunate person/family who we've been promised these units are for. Unless by "working in Dublin" you mean criminal activity as the person's "job".
Mr.G January 22, 2014 at 05:37 PM
I have to agree with Danielle. Perhaps it is time to rethink that policy. I am a little confused how this shooting actually happened when, as I understand it, Mr. Lee was not home and the residence was unoccupied.
Danielle January 22, 2014 at 06:30 PM
Mr.G - as for how the shooting happened... obviously it's still being investigated. But from what I've read, it sounds like they went to the home to look for certain stolen items from this guy's BART crime spree last week. When they arrived at the house, they announced themselves at the door twice, but nobody answered. Then they tried the door knob, and found it unlocked. While they knew that Mr. Lee was in police custody, I imagine they assumed that the door being unlocked was a sign that someone else could have been home (because who leaves their door unlocked when they leave their home for an extended period of time?) And if someone was potentially home, but not answering to their announcing themselves at the door, it could mean there's potentially someone in the home that doesn't want to be discovered by the police (which would most likely be someone else with a criminal record, possibly with a warrant or on probation or with some other reason to fear being apprehended). Such a person might be willing to "fight back" against the cops, in an effort to escape. Cops have to consider such "what ifs" so they can be prepared to deal with them, should they materialize. My guess is that they found to door unlocked, removed their guns as a precautionary measure, and then began searching the house. At some point, a failure of communication between the officers may have occurred, and perhaps the Sergeant came through a door, or rounded a corner, gun first, and caught the other officer by surprise (because he didn't know the Sergeant was there), and made him think -- in that split second -- that it was someone else, who was a threat. And before he had time to realize who it was he had pulled the trigger. Having to make those kinds of decisions as an officer is extremely hard -- something that I don't think most people could do well. And even though they train, and train, and train for such things... cops are still human, and mistakes can occur.
Mr.G January 22, 2014 at 07:28 PM
A reasonable theory on what went down. I don't want to second guess these guys. As you say, split second decisions are often required that are easy to dissect and over think afterwards. Prayers to the two officers and their families.
mike Grant January 22, 2014 at 11:53 PM
Rumor has it from a very good source; Number "1 guy" in the front door, he went left into a small room and number 2,3,and 4 guy went straight down the hall. Number 1 guy then went into a short hallway attached from the small room he went into and then started to pie the corner at the end of that short hallway into the long hallway that #1,2and 3 guy were moving down, When number 2 guy seen the gun coming around the corner he shot number 1 guy in the right side missing the vest.
Autumn Johnson (Editor) January 23, 2014 at 07:53 PM
Autopsy: BART Officer Killed by Single Shot to Chest http://dublin.patch.com/groups/police-and-fire/p/autopsy-bart-officer-killed-by-single-shot-to-chest
Autumn Johnson (Editor) January 24, 2014 at 01:25 PM
State of the City Address Postponed for BART Officer's Funeral http://dublin.patch.com/groups/police-and-fire/p/state-of-the-city-address-postponed-for-bart-officers-funeral
Autumn Johnson (Editor) January 27, 2014 at 08:10 PM
BART Officials Identify Officer Who Fatally Shot Colleague http://dublin.patch.com/groups/police-and-fire/p/bart-officials-identify-officer-who-fatally-shot-colleague_8f36a550
Autumn Johnson (Editor) January 28, 2014 at 09:49 AM
Memorial Fund Created for Family of Fallen BART Officer http://dublin.patch.com/groups/police-and-fire/p/memorial-fund-created-for-family-of-fallen-bart-officer

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