Sgt. Tom Smith, 42, who had been with BART for 23 years, died Tuesday as he and other officers searched a jailed robbery suspect's apartment in Dublin. He was the first BART police officer ever killed in the line of duty, the San Jose Mercury News reported.
While the agency said the officers at the scene were wearing bullet-proof vests, few details were released Wednesday about what happened in the apartment and whether the shooting was the result of an accident or mistaken identity. Police Chief Kenton Rainey cried at a news conference in Oakland as he described Smith as a man happy with his wife, a BART officer he met at work, and their 6-year-old son.
"The department is grieving, in shock. Please give us time," Rainey said. "You just couldn't meet a nicer guy."
Rainey said the other officer was also a veteran who had been on the job for more than a decade.
Investigators said seven BART officers and a Dublin police officer went to the apartment Tuesday afternoon and five went inside when they found it open. Rainey said going to a home is "the most dangerous type of work police do" because they do not know what they will find inside.
Tom Nolan, a retired Boston police officer who chairs the department of criminal justice at the State University of New York at Plattsburgh, said the accidental discharge of a police weapon is unlikely.
"You don't just drop one on the floor and have it accidentally go off," Nolan said. "You have to affirmatively pull the trigger, and it takes about five pounds of pressure to do so."