Officer Michael Smith, of the Henry County, Georgia, Police Department, was shot Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018, during a struggle with a man inside a dentist's office. He died of his injures on Friday, Dec. 28, 2018.
Photo: Henry County Police Department
Photo: Henry County Police Department

Henry County police chief: ‘Please continue to pray for Michael’s family’

Officer Michael Smith dies three weeks after being shot in the line of duty

He had made remarkable strides. Officer Michael Smith was shot in the face, but survived emergency surgeries. The Henry County police officer was able to leave the hospital days later and was moved to a rehabilitation center.

At the Shepherd Center, Smith continued his recovery, recently taking 10 small steps. But his injuries were too much to overcome. Early Friday — three weeks and a day after being shot in the line of duty — Smith died from complications. He was 33.

“I want to thank the public for all their thoughts and prayers for the department and for Michael,” Henry police Chief Mark Amerman said in a Facebook video Friday afternoon. “Please continue to pray for Michael’s family during these difficult times.”

Smith was the sixth Georgia officer killed in 2018 and the second to die in 15 days. Smith was shot on Dec. 6, and a week later, DeKalb County police Officer Edgar Flores was shot and killed while attempting a traffic stop. 

Smith tried to calm McNelly and used multiple Taser shots, but McNelly still lunged at him. As the men fought, a single shot was fired. Investigators believe it came from Smith’s gun, but don’t yet know who pulled the trigger, the GBI said Friday.

But for Henry County, Smith’s death was a devastating reminder of the community’s grief 10 months earlier. In February, Locust Grove Officer Chase Maddox was killed while assisting Henry deputies serving a warrant. 

“It shatters you all over again,” Alex Maddox, the widow of Chase Maddox, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. 

Maddox said she didn’t know Smith, but had spoken to his wife after he was shot. Erin Smith told Maddox the two officers had once worked together on a call. Since Chase’s death, Alex Maddox said her family has been overwhelmed by the community’s support, and she hopes the Smith family will feel the same. 

“Our community has proven that they can carry you even when you don’t think you can keep going,” Maddox said. 

On the day Smith was shot, according to the GBI, he arrived at a McDonough-area dental office shortly after 8 a.m. on a report of an irate man.

December 6, 2018 Henry County: Henry County police cars parked outside Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta after a shooting of a fellow officer inside a Henry County dentist’s office early Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018. JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

DiMaggio McNelly, 53, didn’t have an appointment and was unknown to employees when he drove a red van into the parking lot of Smile Creators Family and Cosmetic Dentistry on Jonesboro Road. McNelly was combative, and police were called to assist with the situation, the GBI said. 

Smith tried to calm McNelly and used multiple Taser shots, but McNelly still lunged at him. As the men fought, a single shot was fired. Investigators believe it came from Smith’s gun, but don’t yet know who pulled the trigger, the GBI said Friday.

“With that one shot, both the officer and the subject were struck,” GBI spokeswoman Natalie Ammons said after the shooting.

McNelly, a McDonough resident, was killed. Smith, critically injured, was rushed to the hospital.

“This morning, Officer Michael Smith stood in between innocent citizens and danger, ensuring their safety,” Henry police posted on Facebook. “Tonight, he is fighting for his life at Grady Memorial Hospital.”

Smith survived the most critical hours. A few days later, his condition had stabilized.

While Smith remained in the hospital, the Henry community rallied in support of the injured officer. Back in February, the same county mourned the death of Chase Maddox, a Locust Grove officer killed in the line of duty. This time, another young officer needed the support.

RELATED: Henry officer is Georgia’s 6th killed in line of duty in 2018

There was a vigil on the McDonough Square and fundraising accounts were created to help Smith’s family. The wife of Henry’s police captain created an online GoFundMe page, which passed $24,000 late Friday. On Dec. 22, Momentum Christian Church hosted a 5K run to benefit the officer’s family. 

That same day, Amerman said Smith was continuing to recover at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta. 

“Yesterday, he took 10 steps, which is really encouraging,” Amerman said in a Facebook video. “Your thoughts and prayers going out to him are very much appreciated. I want to let you know that it’s working.” 

But the Smith family had another setback. While visiting her husband, Erin Smith passed out and hit her head, Amerman said. Erin Smith was taken to Piedmont Hospital for surgery to treat blood clots. 

At some point, Officer Smith was also taken to Piedmont. He died Friday at 4:30 a.m., the Police Department said. In addition to his wife, Smith is survived by a 3-year-old son. 

“It’s very important to remember Officer Smith and to remember his son,” Alex Maddox said. “Those are the things his wife is going to lean on.” 

Smith is the fourth Henry County police officer killed in the line of duty, but the first to die from gunfire, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page. In November 2012, Officer Elgin Levarn Daniel was killed by a hit-and-run driver while assisting a stranded motorist. Two others, Sgt. James Curtis Gilbert and Officer Charles Richard Thomas Haist, died in crashes in 2004 and 2005, respectively. 

Nationwide, 148 officers died in the line of duty in 2018, up from 139 in 2017. Six Georgia officers, plus a police dog, were killed in 2017, down from nine the previous year. 

The GBI conducted an autopsy Friday on Smith. His body was then escorted by officers from GBI headquarters to a funeral home. Arrangements were pending late Friday.

HOW TO HELP 

For members of our community family who wish to pay their respects to Officer Michael Smith, his vehicle has been placed outside Henry County Public Safety Headquarters, covered and out of the rain. 

108 S. Zack Hinton Parkway, McDonough, GA 30253 

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made at any Southern Credit Union branch or the Henry County Police Department 

Checks may be made out to “Officer Smith Fund” and mailed to: The Southern Credit Union, Attn: Officer Smith Fund, P.O. Box 1509 Fayetteville, GA 30214 

Donations can be made online at: gofundme.com/support-officer-smith-fund

Investigators said Officer Michael Smith got into a confrontation with a man outside of a dentist office.

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