By T.B. Lefever:
I’ve always been moved by acts of courage, selflessness, and valor. I can’t count the number of war movies I sat through in the theater with my father growing up. The brotherhood exhibited by a platoon of men fighting and dying together will always be at the top of my list for the most powerful cinematography conceivable. But these acts of bravery, self-sacrifice, and heroics are not merely conjured up in some film school graduate’s imagination. Often times they are based on personal accounts of real events that branch out beyond the scope of the battlefield and into the streets of Anywhere, USA. Hollywood always will embellish, dramatize, and romanticize whatever they put their hands on but every now and then a truly tragic yet uplifting, disheartening yet encouraging, and defeating yet triumphant incident can take place to remind us that the good in this world will always win out over the evil.
Americus, GA Officer Nick Smarr and Georgia Southwestern State University Officer Jody Smith grew up best friends from a young age and graduated Americus-Sumter High School together in 2009. The companions then embarked on the next stage of their lives as they had always done, together. After graduating the police academy as a tandem, 25 year old Smarr and 26 year old Smith were sworn into Americus PD and Georgia Southwestern PD respectively. It is reported that although they worked for two different agencies, the rookie cops would back each other up on 911 calls as Georgia Southwestern University is located within Americus city limits. Not to break with a tradition of doing everything else in life together, they were both engaged to be married to their fiancés in 2017.
On December 7 at around 9:30am, Ofc. Smarr responded to a domestic violence dispute call, classically one of the most unknown and high risk call types officers respond to, at an apartment complex just south of the GSSU main campus. Hearing the call dispatched, Ofc. Smith took the opportunity to back up his best friend and fellow officer. Smarr approached the apartment from the front door as Smith went around to the back. It is reported that body camera footage shows Ofc. Smarr push open the slightly ajar front door as he can hear an argument taking place inside. The suspect, Minquell Lembrick, ran for the back door as Ofc. Smarr pursued through the apartment. Lembrick came out of the back door shooting and struck Ofc. Smith instantly. Ofc. Smarr returned fire and was also struck by a bullet from the suspect’s gun.
I don’t know how or why Minquell Lembrick was able to get the drop on both officers in the gunfight. He was either a highly trained marksmen or this was an instance of lucky shooting. What I do know is that the good guys don’t always win. The tragic reality of life, something that we don’t often see in the Tinsel Town depictions of it, is that a gunfight is a game of millimeters. All the training in the world can be equalized in a split second by a bullet traveling 2,500 feet per second. In a day and age where a significant uninformed portion of our society would prefer to have officers be mandated to wait until a gun is actually pointed at them and fired before they can use deadly force to defend themselves and others, it is possible that the fight was over for Ofc. Smith before he could even get his weapon out of his holster.
After having been shot, Ofc. Smarr staggered to his fallen comrade, rolled his body over, and performed CPR on him until he himself lost consciousness forever. Responding officers arrived on scene to find Ofc. Nick Smarr’s lifeless body hunched over onto his dying best friend. You can teach a person how to respond to a domestic violence call. You can teach a person how to fire a weapon. You cannot teach this.
While Ofc. Smarr died on scene, Ofc. Smith was transported to the hospital where he underwent an unsuccessful life-saving surgery. Ofc. Jody Smith succumbed to his wounds twenty four hours later. Minquell Lembrick became the subject of a large scale manhunt. Rather than atone for his crimes, Lembrick ended his own life as a coward inside of a SWAT surrounded home in Americus. Good and decent people lamenting the loss of officers Smarr and Smith urged others to pray for not only the blue families of those lost, but also for the family of the deceased cop killer.
As a police officer sharing the same burdens and responsibilities as these heroes, I can only hope and pray for the strength of character exhibited by Ofc. Smarr, who died more concerned with saving the life of a fellow officer than his own. Officers Smith and Smarr should be honored for their courage and bravery as an inspiration to us all. They did not suit up and perform their jobs for the brief time that they did in search of fame or fortune. These men grew up together in small town America and swore an oath to protect others in that same tightly knit community. Just as they lived together, they died together. Such is a life well lived. While officers Smith and Smarr have reached the end of their watch, they’re a reminder that glory and valor are alive and well in American policing.
T.B. Lefever is an OpsLens Contributor and active police officer in the Metro-Atlanta area. Throughout his career, Lefever has served as a SWAT Hostage Negotiator, a member of the Crime Suppression Unit, a School Resource Officer, and a Uniformed Patrol Officer. He has a BA in Criminal Justice and Sociology from Rutgers University.