COLUMBUS — SWAT Officer Steve Smith was honored and remembered Tuesday morning as his family, friends, and the community said goodbye.
More than a thousand family members, friends, and colleagues filled St. Paul the Apostle Church in Westerville, with several hundred more people filling two overflow areas.
"He will be remembered eternally as a hero," Columbus Police Chief Kim Davis said during the moving service.
Sgt. Joe Podolski, Smith's Sergeant for SWAT, shared several stories of working with him, often choking back tears. Podolski spoke of how Smith was always working to be better, and would push other officers to do the same. He also said Officer Smith always volunteered to do the job, no matter what it was. "My badge shines brighter because of Steven Smith," Podolski said. Then looking at the flag-draped casket, told his friend, "We've got it from here."
Officer Smith was given full honor guard services outside of the church, with the crowds of Columbus officers and officers from around the country joined by members of the community.
Officer Smith was shot during a standoff early in the morning on Sunday, April 10th. The standoff started after SWAT tried to serve a warrant on an arson suspect. Office Smith died a few days later from his injuries.
The 27-year veteran had served in many roles during his career, including as a helicopter pilot, a sniper for SWAT, and as a member of the dive team.The President for the Fraternal Order of Police told ABC 6/FOX 28 that Officer Smith was eligible to retire two years ago but loved his work.
Lincoln Rutledge is charged with a preliminary count of aggravated murder in the shooting death of Officer Smith. The SWAT team was serving an arrest warrant for arson when Rutledge reportedly barricaded himself inside his apartment and opened fire. A fire was later set inside the apartment, destroying the building. Other charges are expected against Rutledge.
Smith is the 54th Columbus Police Officer to die in the line of duty.