CLARKSVILLE -- Hundreds of law enforcement officers from Arkansas and three adjacent states traveled to Clarksville on Wednesday to pay homage to one of their fallen, Johnson County sheriff's office Reserve Deputy Sonny Smith.
The car carrying the ashes of Sonny Smith (front) arrives at Clarksville High School for his public funeral service Wednesday afternoon in Clarksville.
Family, friends and co-workers told the more than 1,000 people who attended the memorial for Smith, 42, about his compassion, his dedication to his community and his devotion to his family.
"Sonny had a vision for his community," friend Aaron Kelley of London said during the 90-minute service. "He wanted it to be safe, and he wanted to be part of it."
Among those attending Wednesday's memorial were Gov. Asa Hutchinson, U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, Arkansas State Police Director Col. Bill Bryant, state Sen. Gary Stubblefield, R-Branch, and U.S. Marshal for the Western District of Arkansas Mike Oglesby, along with county and local government and law enforcement leaders.
Smith was one of several officers who responded to a burglary call in rural eastern Johnson County about 1 a.m. May 15. During a search of a wooded area near the burglarized home, he confronted a suspect and was fatally shot in an exchange of gunfire.
The suspect, Fred Kauffeld, 51, surrendered after reportedly firing all the rounds in his the gun. He is being held without bail in the Pope County jail, awaiting the filing of formal charges.
Prosecuting Attorney David Gibbons said he plans to seek a capital murder charge against Kauffeld and expects to file charges next week.
In a eulogy to her father, Makayla Smith said she would miss their fishing trips, how he taught her to tie a fishhook knot, how to handle and shoot a gun, and that he supported everything she did. He was the hero of her childhood, she said.
"My dad was passionate about everything he did," she said. "He'd try to be a friend and care for everybody. He was the kind of guy that if he saw you without a shirt and you were in need, he would give you the shirt right off his back."
Before the 4 p.m. memorial service began Wednesday, a procession of more than 100 vehicles -- including representatives of 54 law enforcement agencies from Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri and Oklahoma -- slowly drove through town as hundreds of people lined the route to Clarksville High School.
In one of the lead vehicles, Johnson County Sheriff Larry Jones held the urn containing Smith's ashes as a following limousine carried Smith's family.
People stood in the bright warm sunshine Wednesday afternoon to pay their respects to Smith as the long line of vehicles wound its way through town.
T.J. Wittmayer of Clarksville, who said he had met Smith once or twice, described Smith as a good community servant. As a disabled veteran, Wittmayer said he wanted to take part in the procession as a show of support for Smith, who was a Navy veteran, and his family.
"Eleven years a volunteer," said Wittmayer's wife, Dell. "That says something about the guy."
Another onlooker, Erin Itza of Clarksville, stood outside the Johnson County Courthouse with her husband, Solomon, and sons Nate, Isaac and Sam. She said she was glad the community turned out in such numbers to honor Smith.
"We have three boys, and they think very highly of law enforcement and we wanted to honor Deputy Smith's memory," she said.
Johnson County Judge Herman Houston said the number of people lining the procession route showed the level of support in the community for the law enforcement officer.
He said he was at a loss for the words to explain how well people have supported not only local law enforcement, but Smith's family, as well.
"It makes me proud to be county judge over a county with people like this in it," he said.
On arrival at the Clarksville High School Fine Arts Center, where the memorial was held, an honor guard from the Fort Smith Police Department fired a three-volley salute.
The flower-decorated stage inside the fine arts building held Smith's urn, a folded American flag and a photograph of Smith with a wide grin on his face.
Later in the memorial, a montage of photos from Smith's life was projected onto a screen above the stage, provoking many tears but some laughter.
Metro on 05/28/2015
Print Headline: Clarksville turns out to lay deputy to rest