Westland, MI – Wayne County Sheriff’s Sergeant Lee Smith was out for his morning run on Tuesday when he was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver.
The incident occurred at approximately 10:30 a.m., as the off-duty sergeant was jogging along Hines Drive, Hometown Life reported.
According to witnesses, an unidentified suspect in a small, black SUV with round headlights was traveling eastbound, when the vehicle suddenly crossed over onto the westbound side of the road, WXYZ reported.
The vehicle collided with Sgt. Smith, then dragged the officer for a short distance, WDIV reported.
The driver then continued driving eastbound, according to Hometown Life. One individual reported having followed the vehicle after the crash, but ultimately lost sight of it.
Sgt. Smith, a 26-year veteran of the department, was pronounced dead at the scene, WDIV reported.
He had filed for retirement on Friday, and planned to close the chapter on his law enforcement career on Oct. 1, according to WXYZ.
“We’ve lost a hero,” Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon told Hometown Life in the wake of the sergeant’s tragic death.
"It's very emotional for all of us," Sheriff Napoleon said, according to WWJ. "Unfortunately, I've done this too many times, and it never gets easier."
In an interview posted by WSCO, the sheriff said there was “no question” in his mind that the driver was well aware that they hit someone, and he urged the driver to turn themselves in.
“Trust me. We’re going to find you,” he vowed, according to the Associated Press.
In May, Sgt. Smith was one of several Wayne County officers who received a certificate of merit from the Westland Police Department for heroically evacuating senior citizens from an apartment complex fire, Hometown Life reported.
His former supervisor, retired Wayne County Sheriff Commander Paul Jones, said that Sgt. Smith was faithful in his workout regimen, and that he played an instrumental role in training other officers.
“He was an outstanding officer and [a] better man,” Cmdr. Jones told Hometown Life. “He was dedicated to the department and its officers…He was generous with his time and always ready to help others. Great guy. Major loss to the sheriff’s office.”
Sheriff Napoleon said that Sgt. Smith headed the agency’s mounted unit, and that he worked with the Special Response Team and road patrol in the past.
“He had a very storied career,” the sheriff noted. “Well respected. Well loved.”
"He was truly one of our best and an inspiration to all who knew him,” Wayne County Executive Warren Evans said. “My sincere condolences go out to his family for this very sudden and painful loss.”
Sgt. Smith leaves behind his wife and adult son.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Wayne County Sheriff's Sergeant Lee Smith, both blood and blue. Thank you for your service.
Rest easy, hero. We’ll hold the line from here.