WESTLAND, Mich. (WJBK) - Police are searching for a suspect after an off-duty Wayne County Sheriff's deputy was hit and killed Tuesday by a car while jogging in Westland.
"When we first saw him in the road he had his hands up, like he was trying to stop him," said witness Tom Behringer.
On their way to work Tuesday morning, Behringer and Chuck Richards were driving down Hines Drive near Middlebelt Road in Westland where Wayne County Sheriff sergeant 55-year-old Lee Smith had been out for a jog.
"He was jogging on the side of the road in a very peaceful, quiet, secluded, almost deserted area of Hines Park," said Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon.
Around 10:30 a.m., these witnesses say they spotted a smaller black SUV crossing into the wrong lane, hitting Smith and throwing him roughly 50 yards in front of Behringer's truck.
"I jumped out, tried to resuscitate him and I told my friend Chuck to go chase him," Behringer said.
Richards said the driver didn't seem like he was going to stop.
"So I went to chase him and that's where the curb was and that's where I lost sight of him," he said.
Behringer said he began giving Smith CPR but with no success.
Witnesses say police arrived and broke down when they realized they'd lost one of their own.
"We lost a true hero. Someone who was a valued member of this agency and someone that will be sorely missed," Napoleon said.
Napoleon passed along the horrific news to Smith's family -- his loving wife and 28-year-old son. The entire sheriff's office is shaken, he says.
"We're all grieving and it's a tough time for us," he said.
Napoleon says Smith, who had been honored with several awards, had been with them for over 25 years. He was a member of the county's road patrol, special response team and head of its mounted unit.
"He had a very, very, very deep affection for the horses. He would come in and take care of those horses day and night," he said.
And even more heartbreaking, after nearly 30 years of service he had just decided to retire. His last day would have been Oct. 1.
The sheriff's office and surrounding agencies are now dedicated to finding the person in that black SUV who hit Smith and drove away.
"We have some significant information. I would strongly urge the person to go ahead and turn themselves in because trust me, we're gonna find them," Napoleon said.