OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) - The San Francisco Bay Area transit officer who was shot and killed by a fellow officer while they searched an apartment died of a single gunshot wound to the chest, according to autopsy results released Thursday.
Bay Area Rapid Transit police Sgt. Tom Smith was wearing a bulletproof vest when he was shot on Tuesday, but the bullet struck an area that was not covered, Alameda County sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. J.D. Nelson said.
“Unfortunately, bulletproof vests do not provide 100 percent support,” he said.
Authorities were still trying to determine whether the other officer’s weapon discharged accidentally or if the officer mistook Smith for someone else, Nelson said. Either way, it was an accident, he added.
Smith, 42, was shot while authorities searched a one-bedroom apartment in Dublin for a smartphone, laptop bag and related items stolen during an armed holdup at a train station in Oakland.
He was the first officer killed in the line of duty in the transit agency’s 42-year history. Smith’s older brother, Patrick, said his heart goes out to the family of the fellow officer who accidentally shot and killed his colleague.
“We’re going to mourn the loss of our brother. We’ll never forget him,” Patrick Smith, a field training officer with the Newark, Calif., police told KPIX-TV Wednesday about the death of his brother.
“But there’s someone else in another family that’s affected by this, too, and I feel sorry for them,” said Patrick Smith, whose other brother, Ed Smith, is a deputy with the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department.
Smith’s wife, Kellie Smith, also a BART police officer, told the TV station that she “cherished every moment” she had with her husband, a 23-year BART police veteran who oversaw the department’s detective unit.
The couple has a 6-year-old daughter.
Smith was shot while searching the apartment of John Henry Lee, 20, a suspect in several robberies on BART property.
BART police said in a statement that the San Leandro Police Department had arrested Lee on Jan. 16 after an automobile burglary and subsequent chase that ended when the suspect lost control of his vehicle and hit a tree.
Lee has pleaded not guilty to second-degree robbery with use of a handgun.
Rainey has said seven BART officers and a sheriff’s deputy were at the scene when the shooting occurred. Five of the BART officers were detectives in plainclothes, including Smith, and the officers knew a suspect already was in custody, he said, noting the officers were following agency policies and training.