ARLINGTON -- In a job where the architecture is maintained by self-sacrifice, officer Jillian Smith made the ultimate sacrifice of her life, Arlington Police Chief Theron Bowman told hundreds of mourners gathered Monday for a vigil in her honor.
"She will be remembered as a true hero -- someone who sacrificed her young life to save an even younger one," Bowman said.
Smith, 24, and Kimberly Carter, 29, were killed Dec. 28 by Barnes Samuel Nettles, 38, a man with a long criminal history who turned his weapon on himself after shooting the two women, police said.
Carter called police to her apartment, saying she wanted to report an assault. She said she was alone with her 11-year-old daughter, police said.
Moments after Smith arrived, Nettles appeared with a gun, police said. Smith placed her body between the 11-year-old and Nettles as his gun went off, police said.
Carter's 11-year-old daughter ran to a neighbor's apartment and survived.
"It's a sad, sad day for our city, for our church family, for the police department, for everyone," said David Adams, a member of Mount Olive Baptist Church, 301 W. Sanford St., where Smith and her family attended and where a wake followed the vigil.
Like some others who attended, Adams did not know Smith, but said he wanted to be there to support his church family and the Smith family.
The funeral for Officer Smith is scheduled for 11 a.m. Tuesday at Mount Olive.
Marsha Gross, who said she knew some of Smith's relatives, said she also attended the vigil to show her support for the police and the Smith family.
"What she did was so unselfish," Gross said. "It's just a really sad thing."
Many of those in attendance cracked plastic sticks that glowed bright blue in the night. As prayers were said, and as a replica of the Liberty Bell tolled in the background, faces were bathed in blue light.
The gathering of mourners let police officers know that the public acknowledges the difficulty of the job that they do and sees the commitment these officers have made to the public, Bowman said as mourners filed into the church.
This tragedy brings home the reality to officers and to the public alike that being a police officer is an inherently dangerous job, Bowman said, and that all who take the oath of office must be ready to give their all to preserve the public's safety should the situation demand it.
"We want all of our officers to be safe," Bowman said. "But our officers tell us that if push comes to shove they are willing to give their lives to save others."
Mitch Mitchell, 817-390-7752