Michael Lang, suspect charged with killing Iowa State trooper Jim Smith, pleads not guilty
A Grundy Center man has pleaded not guilty to a number of charges, including first-degree murder, related to the fatal shooting of Iowa State Patrol trooper Jim Smith.
Michael Lang, 41, was charged with first-degree murder, assault on a peace officer and attempted murder after allegedly shooting and killing Smith during a standoff at his home. Lang was scheduled to appear in court Monday but his attorney, Aaron Hawbaker, filed a written arraignment Sunday in Grundy County.
Smith, a 27-year veteran of the Iowa State Patrol, was part of a team who attempted to arrest Lang inside his home April 9. The team was clearing the upstairs of the house when Smith was hit by a shot from Lang, according to a criminal complaint.
Lang was pulled over around 7:30 p.m. April 9 by a Grundy Center police officer for driving without an ignition interlock device that tests whether a person has been drinking alcohol, according to the Associated Press. He assaulted the officer, chased him, and yelled "shoot me" multiple times, according to court documents. Lang also put the officer in a chokehold and disarmed the officer of their Taser and radio, then left the scene.
Police tracked Lang to his home, where officers from several agencies including the State Patrol assisted in an attempt to arrest him. Lang's father arrived to warn them that Lang had firearms in the home, including a shotgun.
The team of troopers, including Smith, entered the home to attempt to arrest Lang. As Smith and team members moved through the upstairs of the house, a shot was fired that wounded Smith.
Smith was taken out of the house and transported to a hospital where he was declared dead. Team members who remained in a basement said they heard Lang, who barricaded himself in the house and refused to come out, say he shot Smith and wanted to shoot more officers, Mitch Mortvedt, assistant director of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, said at the time.
At 11:50 p.m. a State Patrol team rammed through the front of the house with an armored personnel carrier and exchanged gunfire with Lang, severely wounding him. Lang was shot three times, according to the Iowa Department of Public Safety. He was taken to the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics. About two weeks later, he was released to the Grundy County Jail.
On April 21 Lang was also charged with attempted murder for shooting at troopers in the armored personnel carrier and assault on a peace officer for assaulting the Grundy Center police officer. He also pleaded not guilty to those charges Sunday.
The office of Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller found April 26 that Hardin County Sheriff’s Deputy Mitch Kappel and Iowa State Patrol troopers Josh Guhl, Matt Costello and Spencer Baltes were justified as they shot at Lang from the armored personnel carrier.
"Lang used and continued to threaten deadly force during his entire interactions with law enforcement," Miller's office said in a letter to Grundy County Attorney Erika Allen. "Lang provided no other option to the officers who encountered him other than to utilize potentially deadly force against him. Lang was provided every opportunity to end the confrontation peacefully and chose not to do so."