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Remembering The Fallen: Sgt. Michael Smith's Lesson For A Young Boy

Sgt. Michael Smith, 55, died Thursday when a gunman opened fire on police in Dallas.

Sgt. Michael Smith was one of five law enforcement officers killed when a gunman fired on police at a peaceful protest in downtown Dallas last week. He’s remembered as a kind man, a good friend and a role model for a young boy at his church.

At an impromptu memorial outside of Dallas police headquarters, two squad cars were covered with flowers and handwritten tributes to the police force. Michael Walton, the head of the Dallas Fraternal Order of Police, says these are difficult days.

“It’s just overwhelming grief coming from the officers,” Walton says.

Walton didn’t know all five of the officers who died. But he did work side by side with Sgt. Michael Smith.

“I knew Mike for about 25 years. He’s just a friend. It’s nothing special, he’s just a friend,” Walton says.

Smith was also a member of Watermark Community Church in North Dallas. Every Sunday, he worked as a security guard beside a play area in the church’s massive lobby. Hundreds of remembrances left on the church’s Facebook page recall Smith’s cheerful presence.

“Mike was unassuming, people just loved him,” says Wes Butler, who heads the children’s ministry at Watermark. “Mike was really an extension of our children’s ministry because he just loved kids.”

Smith was an Army veteran, and served on the Dallas police force for 27 years. Butler says Smith had a servant’s heart. He was not one to talk about himself or his profession.

“He wanted to know about you,” Butler says. “It was clearly a passion for him – he served there for 25-plus years – but he didn’t talk about it that much because he wanted to know what was going on in the ministry, or [would say] this kid needs help or this family is here for the first time.”

For Nathan Wagnon, who also works at Watermark, one story stands out. A young boy was having recurring nightmares that he would be arrested and sent to jail. So his mom thought talking to an actual police officer would help ease her son’s anxiety.

In stepped Smith.

“He pulled out his handcuffs. And the mom was like, ‘This is not how I thought this was going to go,’” Wagnon recalls. “He put the boy’s hands in them, and he says see, they don’t fit because these are for men, and you’re a boy.”“

For Wagnon, this is the kind of personality that will be missed at the church: empathetic, encouraging, approachable.

“We lost a member and a friend and a gentle man who interacted with kids really well and who loved people and his church really well,” Wagnon says.

Smith was 55. He leaves behind a wife and two daughters.

Christopher Connelly is a reporter covering issues related to financial instability and poverty for KERA’s One Crisis Away series. In 2015, he joined KERA to report on Fort Worth and Tarrant County. From Fort Worth, he also focused on politics and criminal justice stories.