Two years later: Fallen police officers’ legacies live on in Americus
AMERICUS, GA (WALB) - Family members said it feels like just yesterday that two police officers in Americus were shot and killed while protecting the community they loved.
Investigators said on December 7, 2016, Americus Police Officer Nick Smarr and Georgia Southwestern State University Campus Police Officer Jody Smith were shot while responding to a domestic dispute call.
Smarr died on scene, while giving his best friend, Smith, first aid.
Smith later died at the hospital.
Police said the suspect took his own life the next day.
Over the past two years, the community of Americus has vowed to never forget the officers' selfless actions.
“Feels like it just happened,” said Johnny O. Smith, Jody’s father. “I cry every day.”
Friday, on the anniversary of one of the darkest days in the history of the city, a somber ceremony honored them at Georgia Southwestern State University.
“I am so proud,” said Janice Smarr, Nick’s mother. “So proud of my son.”
"They woke up that morning and went to work looking forward to the day, not knowing that they would depart the earth that day," one spokesperson prayed. "But God, they were brave men."
Americus Police Chief Mark Scott read a letter written by Former President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn, addressed to the families of these two best friends.
"It is an act of courage to stand up for oneself, but to stand up for one's friend is the most courageous and selfless act of all," wrote Fmr. Pres. Carter.
Officer Smarr served two years in the Marine reserves.
During the ceremony, Lt. Col. Charlie Daniels, who worked with Smarr during that time, awarded him a Navy and Marine Corps medal.
"All I could see was Lance Corporal Smarr's smiling face. I don't know what it was, but it was infectious. You had to smile back at him."
The medal is the highest non-combat award a marine can receive, honoring Smarr for his sacrifice.
He died while performing CPR on his best friend, Smith.
"Although Officer Smith eventually died, Lance Corporal Smarr's actions have been credited with keeping him long enough for his organs to be donated," explained Pamela Green Jackson with the Marine Corps Logistics Base in Albany.
That is something many people who loved Smith, and some who didn't even know him, are grateful for.
"He wanted to help people even after he was gone," said Tracy G. Ide with LifeLink of Georgia. "He never knew when that day might be, but he knew that was something he wanted to do."
According to LifeLink of Georgia, Smith helped save several others' lives by donating his organs.
But, Smarr also provided comfort for his long-time friend's family.
"It gave me time to talk to Jody," his father explained. "I don't know if he heard me, but every time I talked to him, his blood pressure went up. So, I feel like he heard me."
After a ceremony fit for two heroes, in Fmr. Pres. Carter's words, it was clear these men's legacies as heroes and friends can never be taken from those they loved.
"I always thought my baby deserved anything in this world. He always said, 'I'm gonna be somebody big one day,' and look at today," Smarr's mother said. "He's somebody big. He's not here, but he's somebody big."
"They started their career excited and wanting to do good, and they finished their career excited and wanting to do good," said Smith's father.
Both of their families said Friday’s community tribute brings them some comfort, knowing their sons are not forgotten.
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