The jury is now deliberating the fate of Michael Lang — the Grundy Center man accused of shooting and killing State Trooper Jim Smith last April.
Prosecutor Douglas Hammerand said in his closing that this is a straightforward case. “This wasn’t an accidental shooting folks this wasn’t the defendant tripped and the gun went off — this was an intentional shooting. You don’t shoot somebody where the defendant shot them with a loaded 12 gauge shotgun if it’s not intentional,” he says.
Lang is charged with first-degree murder in Trooper Smith’s death. Hammerand told the jury the shooting was premeditated. “If you take a loaded shotgun with a slug and you shoot somebody in the chest Look at that. Is that a fifth purpose or designed to do some physical harm to another? Absolutely,” Hammerand said. “This has malice all over it. The defendant had malice aforethought.”
He says there is ample proof Lang shot Smith intending to kill him. “You not only have the location of the shot, but you also have the number of shots, and his actions afterward, and you consider all those circumstances clearly the defendant has a specific intent to kill,” he said.
Defense attorney Aaron Hawbaker argued the killing does not rise to first-degree murder. “To premeditate is to think or ponder on a matter before acting. In contrast, quick, reactive actions are not premeditated, quick reactions to a circumstance you did not anticipate is not deliberative,” Hawbaker said.
He said Lang could have shot at officers many times during the standoff — but did not. “People walking by the windows. It wasn’t until the first shot that there was a concern about being in harm’s way that way, because if Mr. Lang wanted to during that hour and a half, he could have shot out a door. He could have shot out a window at any one of those law enforcement officers are rounded but he didn’t,” he said.
Hawbaker said Lang was expecting a dog to come into the kitchen where he sat and reacted by shooting when Sergeant Smith appeared with a gun. “A spontaneous act, a reaction to a circumstance he did not anticipate because it wasn’t a dog — but the most serious thing you can do to an individual — and that’s to point of gun at them. That is not murder in the first degree,” Hawbaker said.
Lang is also charged with an attempt to commit murder for firing at a police vehicle, and assault on a peace officer for an attack on a Grundy Center officer which started the series of events that led to Trooper Smith’s death.