Man charged with killing Iowa state trooper who entered his home in standoff claims self-defense

A man charged with killing a state trooper who entered his Grundy Center home during an armed standoff has filed notice that he intends to plead self-defense.

Prosecutors, in their own filing, are asking a judge to prevent testimony supporting a claim under Iowa’s “stand your ground” law.

Michael Lang, 42, is scheduled for trial May 9 in the April 9, 2021, shooting death of Iowa State Patrol Sgt. Jim Smith. He is charged with first-degree murder, attempted murder and assaulting a police officer.

In a filing Tuesday, the attorney representing Lang notified the court his client would offer a justification defense, requiring him to show he acted in self-defense.

Sgt. Jim Smith was a 27-year veteran of the Iowa State Patrol. He was shot during a standoff with a suspect in Grundy Center, Iowa, on Thursday, April 9, 2021, and later pronounced dead.

Anticipating the move, prosecutors in a filing the day before asked District Judge Joel Dalrymple to block Lang’s attorneys from questioning witnesses about self-defense or the Iowa “stand your ground” law.

“A person is not authorized to use force to resist an arrest even if the person believes the arrest is unlawful or the arrest is in fact unlawful,” the prosecutors argued.

Prosecutors also asked Dalrymple to block defense attorney Aaron Hawbaker from questioning witnesses about whether troopers had a warrant to enter Lang’s home.

“This is a legal issue and not an issue for the jury to consider,” they wrote. “In this case law enforcement did not need an arrest warrant as a public offense was committed in a Peace Officer’s presence.”

Defense attorney Mitch Vilos, author of the “Self-Defense Laws of All 50 States,” says such pleas are rarely successful in cases enforcement involving the death of law officers.

Generally, defendants would have to show they didn’t know they were shooting at a law enforcement officer, Vilos said.

“It’s very difficult to use that kind of a defense,” he said. “There’s a good chance a judge won’t allow a self-defense instruction.”

According to police statements and court filings, Smith’s death came after a series of confrontations between Lang, a onetime candidate for Grundy County enforcement sheriff, and law officers.

More: Officers’ use of force ‘justified and reasonable’ in standoff that killed Iowa State Patrol sergeant, state review finds

Grundy Center police attempted to pull over Lang, whom they believed had been barred from driving, but Lang instead fled, then assaulted a Grundy Center officer who caught up with him, police allege.

Lang returned to his home and barricaded himself inside, police said. Police, joined by sheriff’s deputies and troopers, cordoned off the house. Smith, a 27-year patrol veteran, led a team inside to find and arrest Lang, who shot and killed him, prosecutors charge.

The other officers took shelter in Lang’s basement as the standoff continued amid negotiations with Lang. When those failed after several hours, troopers in an armored personnel carrier approached the house. Exchanging fire with Lang, they crashed inside and took him into custody.

The badly wounded Lang was taken to a hospital, where he remained for nearly two weeks before being transferred to a detention center.

More: What we know about Michael Lang, the suspect arrested in the fatal shooting of Iowa State trooper Sgt. Jim Smith

In March, Dalrymple granted a motion to move the trial from Grundy County to Webster City, about an hour west in Hamilton County, because of pre-trial publicity.

In a related filing Tuesday, Hawbaker asked that prosecutors be prevented from referring to Smith as a “victim” because it “assumes a crime has been committed.”

Hawbaker also asked that prosecutors not be allowed to present evidence of Lang’s criminal history, past bad acts, or history of alcohol or drug abuse.

Daniel Lathrop is a staff writer on the Register’s investigative team. Reach him at (319) 244-8873 or Follow him at @lathropd on Twitter and at

This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Michael Lang to claim self-defense in death of Iowa Trooper Jim Smith

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