Sgt. Jim Smith honored at public service (with photos)

Sgt. Smith's patrol car was parked outside of Independence High School. (Robert Maharry/The Grundy Register photo)
Robert Maharry
The Grundy Register

Editor's note: Per the family's wishes, cameras were not allowed inside of the public service for Sergeant Smith or at his interment. These photos were taken outside of the event and during the procession. 


INDEPENDENCE- Iowa State Patrol Sergeant Jim Smith was remembered as a devout and committed man who loved God, his family, his job, superheroes, playing the drums and the occasional glass of chocolate milk during an emotional public service held at the Independence High School gymnasium on Friday morning that drew law enforcement officers from across Iowa and the United States.


After his body was escorted into the gym by the Iowa State Patrol Honor Guard, state troopers from across the country, city and county police from almost every law enforcement organization in Iowa and even three NYPD officers saluted Smith during the procession.  A host of speakers—Pastor Matt Perez, Jesup Bible Fellowship Interim Pastor Paul Heppner, Colonel Nathan Folk and Officer John Stickney of the ISP all painted a similar picture of Smith, who died in the line of service after a standoff in Grundy Center on April 9: he was a man wholeheartedly committed to God and his faith.


“I can still remember the first time I met Jim. After meeting him, I remember being a bit confused. I was told he was 51, but he looked 35 and he acted, like, five,” Heppner said. “I was also confused because he was this mixture of stern law officer and comedian. However, I was very clear about a few things. Jim loved superheroes. More than that, he loved his family, and he loved his job. But the most prominent characteristic was that Jim loved Jesus with all of his heart.”


Heppner went on to describe the fallen trooper as a man who carried his faith with him everywhere he went—sometimes even playing Christian music with a suspect in the back of his patrol car—and upheld a high standard of integrity throughout his career.


“Jim wasn’t putting on an act. It was part of him. It was his inner purity that made him unique. He was the real deal,” Heppner said.


Folk asked everyone in the audience, on behalf of Smith, his wife Kathy, his daughter Jazlyn and his son Zander, to open their minds and their hearts to Jesus Christ. He also thanked the community of Independence and the state of Iowa at large for its support during the trying time.


“During a time in history when we wonder, with conflict, adversity and challenge, we can doubt the support we have in society,” Folk said. “However, the outpouring of support for the city of Independence has been truly amazing. You’ve reminded us why we love working, serving and living in the state of Iowa.”


In reflecting on Smith’s quarter century plus with the state patrol, Folk noted that he struggled with the decision of whether to take on a leadership role because he wanted to be on the ground but eventually agreed as it gave him an opportunity to mentor younger troopers.


Stickney encouraged those in attendance to live by Smith’s example, and Hall, who knew him through the Jesup Bible Fellowship, read from scripture and reflected on Smith’s love of music and drumming and his strict moral code.


“He thought his drumming ability was not that great, but it was good enough for Jesus,” Hall said. “And that’s all that mattered.”


Perez, who served as the lead pastor at Jesup Bible Fellowship for seven years and is now based out of a church in North Carolina, delivered the longest address of the service and mixed stories of their faith journey together with personal anecdotes such as their shared love of saving money at Kohl’s.


He went on to comfort Smith’s son and daughter, the fellow officers who knew him during his career and his church family, and Perez read excerpts from a letter Smith had been writing to his children over the years, starting on his 24th birthday when he was sworn in as a state trooper in 1993.


“I feel like I have the easy job today, sharing about God and Jim. It’s each of you who have worked with him, worshipped with him, lived with him, served with him (and) loved him that will have the hardest job because you’ll have to carry on after today surrounded by the daily reminders of Jim as you pick up the pieces of your life, look to persevere and try to make sense of a tragic event,” Perez said.


Before the service ended, Jesup Bible Fellowship worship leader John Noll led a prayer, and an emotional “End of Watch” radio call was broadcast over the loudspeakers. A procession of law enforcement vehicles guided Smith’s body to interment.


The Grundy Register

601 G. Avenue - P.O. Box 245
Grundy Center, IA 50638
Telephone: 1-319-824-6958
Fax: 1-800-340-0805

Mid-America Publishing

This newspaper is part of the Mid-America Publishing Family. Please visit for more information.