A short while ago, Dallas Police Chief David Kunkle concluded a press conference, carried in its entirety on KDFW-Channel 4, concerning the death of Senior Corporal Norman Smith, pictured at right. Smith was an 18-year veteran of the department -- his anniversary would have been tomorrow -- who was killed tonight while serving an aggravated assault warrant in the 4900 block of Wadsworth Drive near S. Loop 12. According to the department's Web site, some 18 units are still on the scene, where, at around 6:15, the 43-year-old officer was shot in the face after knocking on a door. Three suspects are in custody.
Jesse Hyde wrote about Smith for the Dallas Observer in June 2006, in the story "Masters of Cymbal Drive," about how Dallas police officers took back a city block from gang members who had long thought it their territory. An excerpt:
The violence even extended to cops. An undercover narcotics officer was punched in the mouth, a marked patrol car was hit with a paintball, smashing the back window, and one night, a uniformed officer saw a red laser--either from a pointer or a gun--aimed at his face. (A gun outfitted with a laser-guided sight, said to belong to [gang member Andre] Ford, was later seized in a raid.)
"They were bold enough to basically say, 'This is our block, this is our little neighborhood, and that's just the way it's going to be,'" said Norm Smith, a member of the DPD gang unit.
Smith was on the street so much he was given a nickname: Soprano. He had cards on every one of the gang members, detailing arrest records, gang tattoos, the date they admitted their gang affiliation. Over time, he developed a sort of rapport with Ford, who demanded in return that his homeboys respect Smith. Once, a gang member known as Low-Down refused to allow Smith to take his picture for the gang unit database. Smith reported this to Ford, who ordered Low-Down to comply.
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Kunkle, speaking tonight in hushed tones, said Smith's wife, Lt. Regina Smith, is also a Dallas police officer. Indeed, Regina works in Kunkle's office, and, offering such details as their interest in collecting rare china, the chief spoke of both as he would dear, old friends. Said the chief, Smith was "a great, great, great street officer... As much as anyone, I would have thought he was invincible." Of the couple, he said, "They were magical together." And tonight, PoliceLink carries this brief note: "RIP Brother." --Robert Wilonsky