Prayers, hugs and tears filled the sanctuary of an Eastman church Wednesday night as hundreds from the community gathered to grieve the recent loss of slain Police Officer Tim Smith.
Smith, who would have turned 31 Monday, was shot and killed on duty Saturday night. His fiancee, children and police partner were among those who sat in the front rows of Liberty Baptist Church for the prayer vigil.
Royheem Delshawn Deeds, 24, was arrested Monday in Florida near the Georgia border and charged with Smith’s murder about 1:30 a.m. Monday. Deeds was reportedly hiding in the trunk of his sister’s car.
Dodge County Sheriff Lynn Sheffield said it has been a rough five days for Eastman, especially for local law enforcement. He thanked the public for its outpouring of support, noting he “didn't expect anything different from this community.”
“We worked long and hard hours under extremely difficult circumstances from the time it happened until the arrest was made,” Sheffield said. The court system will deal with him. It may take a while, but it will get done.
Prayers delivered by local pastors called for healing, unity and strength.
He got into law enforcement because of me. ... When he was young, all he wanted was police stuff, police toys, police badges, little police uniforms.
Lewis Smith, father of Officer Tim Smith
State Rep. Jimmy Pruett, R-Eastman, said that when he heard about Smith’s killing Sunday afternoon, it “felt like somebody had hit me in the chest with a sledge hammer.”
“Because that kind of thing doesn’t happen where I live,” Pruett said. “It was just such a shock. I’ll tell you, a sober feeling came over me that we all feel like it could never happen here. Never happen to us, as individuals.”
Pews of people applauded after Pruett said, “There is no color. ... Other than a bad man killed a good man.”
Eastman Police Chief Becky Sheffield was visibly sad as she sat on the stage with district attorneys and elected officials from numerous counties including Oconee, Baldwin and Twiggs.
Earlier in the afternoon, Smith’s family viewed his body for the first time.
His father, 56-year-old Lewis Smith, said he was too upset to attend the prayer service for his son. Like his son, Lewis Smith is a police officer in Glenwood, which is in Wheeler County.
“He got into law enforcement because of me,” Lewis Smith said. “I’ve been a policeman for 29 years. He wanted to follow in my footsteps, is what I believe. When he was young, all he wanted was police stuff, police toys, police badges, little police uniforms.”
Tim Smith had been working for the Eastman Police Department a little more than five years, but he also worked part time at the Glenwood Police Department with his father.
“Every agency I would go to, he would try to go to part time as well so we could work together and be together,” Lewis Smith said. “Timothy and I were closer than brothers, closer than father and son. We were also brothers in law enforcement. … Timothy would be my backup when we would police together and I would be his.”
While he plans to wear a badge and return to work next week, Lewis Smith said he will be more cautious than he’s ever been, though he said he hasn’t had to fire his weapon once during his 29-year-career.
“I just wish to God I would have been there that night he was ambushed and executed,” Lewis Smith said. “If we’d have been working together, we would have made it back home. But it didn’t happen that way and my world changed forever.”
Lewis Smith said his son loved hunting, fishing, family and helping people, but “more than anything, at the end of his shift, he wanted to be able to go home to his family.”