IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — The man charged with fatally shooting an Iowa State Patrol sergeant earlier this month was later shot in the head and chest by other state troopers after he opened fire on them, a prosecutor said Monday.
Three Iowa State Patrol troopers and a Hardin County deputy “were entirely legally justified” in shooting at Michael Lang during the April 9 confrontation at Lang’s home in Grundy Center, assistant Iowa attorney general Scott Brown concluded.
“Because of Lang’s actions officers had no other reasonable choice but to shoot Lang,” Brown wrote in a letter to the Grundy County prosecutor, who had asked for an outside review of the shooting. “Otherwise, responding officers or innocent bystanders would have been put in harm’s way.”
Lang, 41, survived his gunshot wounds. Last week, he was released from University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City and taken into custody. He’s charged with murder in the death of Patrol Sgt. Jim Smith, attempted murder and assaulting a law enforcement officer. Brown is one of the prosecutors on the case, which could send Lang to prison for the rest of his life.
Smith was only the second Iowa State Patrol officer shot and killed in the line of duty since 1936.
Brown wrote that a Grundy Center reserve officer tried to pull Lang over for speeding on the evening of April 9 — contradicting the initial report by authorities, who said it was for suspicion of driving while barred.
Lang initially led the officer on a chase but then stopped, assaulted the officer and fled to his home, Brown wrote. Officers from multiple agencies responded to the home as did Lang’s father, who told authorities that his son had multiple firearms inside. Lang had run for sheriff in 2020 and had a history of alcohol-related run-ins with police.
Brown wrote that Smith, leader of the Iowa State Patrol’s regional tactical team, and other officers made a plan and then entered the home roughly 90 minutes after the traffic stop. They went through a door attached to the home’s garage and deployed a police dog into the basement.
After clearing the basement, Smith led other officers who planned to enter the main floor of the home.
“Officers announced their presence and that a canine would be introduced into the home,” Brown wrote. “Shortly after the announcement, Sgt. Smith neared the doorway into the home, he stated that he observed a gun. Just after doing so, Sgt. Smith was shot once in the upper body and immediately fell to the floor.”
Smith, 51, was then shot in the leg while on the ground, and Lang admitted to be the shooter and threatened to shoot other officers, Brown wrote.
Officers removed Smith from the garage, while two others who were still in the basement remained there for safety reasons. A standoff ensued. Hours later, officers in an armored vehicle entered Lang’s home after negotiations for Lang’s surrender broke down, Brown wrote.
Lang began firing at the vehicle that contained several officers, who returned fire and struck Lang once in the head and twice in the chest, he wrote.
Authorities said that Hardin County sheriff’s deputy Mitch Kappel fired shots at Lang but missed, shortly after Smith was shot. Three troopers — Joshua Guhl, Matt Costello and Spencer Baltes — were identified Monday as those who later fired at Lang. They had been placed on paid leave pending the outcome of Brown’s ruling that they were justified and will not face criminal charges.
Lang has been transferred to the Black Hawk County Jail in Waterloo. A public defender assigned to represent him declined comment Monday.