CA: Hundreds Come to Pay Respects to Slain BART Officer at Visitation

Jan. 29--HAYWARD -- Hundreds of mourners paid their final respects Tuesday night at a viewing for fallen BART police Sgt. Tom Smith Jr., who was killed by a fellow officer during a search of a Dublin apartment last week.

The body of Smith, 42, was laid in a casket draped in an American flag at Chapel of the Chimes in Hayward for the visitation. Family, friends and law enforcement from around the Bay Area, the state and beyond paid tribune to the fallen sergeant -- the first on-duty officer death in the transit police department's 42-year history.

"One thing I remember is that he was a very compassionate person," said Antoinette Taylor, who attended a police academy with Smith in 1996. "He was always concerned that everyone was OK, and that everyone was going to accomplish the goal of the day.

"He had a dry sense of humor, but he was very personable. He was one who always came to you to talk one-on-one, and he spoke to everyone every day."

More than 200 people packed into the chapel during a private memorial service before the public viewing. Police from various Bay Area departments, including BART, Union City, Hayward and Newark, also attended the memorial.

Photos arranged inside the chapel showed Smith in uniform, with his retired police dog, Boris, with his family and with his children, in Oakland A's gear. An honor guard of police stood watch over his casket as mourners passed by.

Mourners were asked to take envelopes and submit their favorities memories or impressions of Smith to a memorial project in his name.

"Tommy was a leader in our community," said Dani Lorta, the director of alumni relations at Hayward's Moreau Catholic High School, where Sgt. Smith graduated in 1989; Lorta was also Smith's classmate. "He was someone who was as committed to his career as he was to his friends and family.

"We are reeling from the loss and are staying in close contact to support the many people whose lives he touched so deeply."

The visitation came on the eve of Smith's funeral, scheduled for 10 a.m. Wednesday at the Neighborhood Church of Castro Valley, at 20600 John Dr. Members of the public are welcome, but are advised to arrive early, as more than 3,000 people are expected for the funeral.

The schedule for funeral services is as follows:

--9:10 a.m.: Moreau Catholic High School bids a final farewell to Smith with an honor guard of students, faculty and staff in front of the school as the funeral procession passes north from Chapel of the Chimes to the church.

--9:30 a.m.: Bagpipers and drummers will play as pallbearers escort Smith's casket into the church.

--10 a.m. -- 11:30 a.m.: Funeral service in the church.

--11:35 a.m.: A band will play to lead mourners out of the church to watch a California Highway Patrol flyover presentation in tribute to Smith.

Dublin police, who work under contract with the Alameda County Sheriff's Office, are investigating the fatal shooting. It will be at least two weeks before their report is complete, according to sheriff's office spokesman Sgt. J.D. Nelson.

Smith died Jan. 21 when a single shot passed through a small gap in the bulletproof vest he was wearing and struck him in the chest, Nelson said. The bullet was fired in error by fellow BART police officer Michael Maes, but officials have not said specifically how the incident unfolded.

Maes will attend the funeral, BART police Chief Kenton Rainey said on Monday.

Seven BART officers, including five plainclothes detectives, were at the apartment of a robbery suspect who was in Santa Rita Jail in Dublin on other charges at the time of the search. They were joined by an Alameda County Sheriff's Deputy working for the Dublin Police Department.

The officers were searching the suspect's apartment for evidence related to robberies the suspect had allegedly committed on BART property. Because the suspect, John Henry Lee, was on probation at the time, police did not need a warrant to search his home.

BART police performed about 18 such searches in 2013, Rainey said Monday. He also announced that BART police will now be required to obtain written approval from a top-ranking official before detectives can search a residence.

Rainey has declined to address media reports, citing anonymous sources, indicating that Smith was shot by a startled Maes when Smith exited a different door from the one he entered during the search. The apartment's bathroom has dual entrances, according to its floor plan.

Smith is survived by his wife, Kellie -- also a BART officer he met on the job -- and their 6-year-old daughter.

Reach Kristin J. Bender at kbender@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow her at Twitter.com/kjbender.

Copyright 2014 - The Oakland Tribune

Loading