BART Police Officer Cleared in 'Friendly-Fire' Killing in Dublin

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BART Sgt. Tom Smith, shot to death by a fellow police officer while searching for a robbery suspect Tuesday in Dublin. (Photo courtesy of BART)
BART Sgt. Tom Smith, shot to death by a fellow police officer while searching for a robbery suspect in Dublin. (Photo courtesy of BART)

No criminal charges will be filed in the fatal January shooting of a BART police sergeant by one of his fellow officers, according to an official report released Friday.

The shooting was described as a tragic mistake that occurred partly due to a failure of the two officers to communicate with one another in an apartment with an unusual layout.

Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley wrote that the evidence surrounding the Jan. 21 shooting death of Sgt. Thomas  Smith Jr. by Officer Michael Maes does not justify criminal charges against Maes.

Smith, 42, was shot by  Maes during a probation search of a small unit at the Park Sierra Apartments on Dougherty Road near Park Sierra in Dublin. They were seeking a robbery suspect named John Henry Lee, who had already been arrested for the robbery and was in custody  in Santa Rita Jail at the time they searched his apartment.

The team of seven BART officers and one Dublin police officer were seeking stolen items, including a laptop computer.

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According to the DA's report, neither Smith nor Maes "uttered a single word inside the apartment that might have alerted either one to the presence of the other" before Maes fired.

"When Detective Maes saw the 'shadowy figure' with an upraised firearm suddenly emerge from the dark walk-in closet area he concluded that he was confronting an armed suspect who posed an imminent threat of serious injury or death to himself and his fellow officer, Scott Hamilton," says the report.

Maes fired a single shot to the figure's chest. The man shouted. Maes recognized Smith's voice and realized he had shot his fellow officer.

The bullet went through Smith's heart and he later died at Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley.

BART Police Chief Kenton Rainey issued a statement Friday: “The release of this report allows BART Police to move forward with concluding its internal investigation of the tragedy. Until the internal investigation is complete, I cannot discuss details relating to our ongoing investigation."

Rainey said that following the fatal shooting, he took action to review and update the BART Police Department's policies, procedures and training to ensure that such a shooting never happens again.