Iowa police clarify traffic stop before trooper’s death

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — A man charged with killing an Iowa State Patrol sergeant was initially pulled over after being spotted speeding and illegally driving without an ignition interlock device that tests whether someone has been drinking alcohol, a police spokesman clarified Wednesday.

Authorities previously said that Michael Lang was pulled over April 9 by a Grundy Center officer for suspicion of driving while barred. Division of Criminal Investigation assistant director Mitch Mortvedt said Wednesday that was a misstatement — that Lang wasn’t barred from driving but was required to have an ignition interlock device in his vehicle, because of his history of drunken driving.

Lang’s interaction with police escalated into a standoff at Lang’s home that ended with him allegedly fatally shooting Patrol Sgt. Jim Smith.

Lang initially caught the Grundy Center officer’s attention when he was speeding, Mortvedt said, and the officer also knew Lang was in a vehicle that did not have the interlock device, which allows a vehicle to operate only after the driver passes a breathalyzer.

A spokesman for Iowa attorney general’s office said Lang, who unsuccessfully ran for Grundy County sheriff last year, was traveling 15 mph (24 kph) over the limit.

Authorities have not said whether Lang, 41, had been drinking. A week earlier, he was cited for trespassing at a bar where he had been banned. Lang had been arrested at least seven times for either drunken driving or public intoxication over the last two decades, the most recent in 2016.

Lang allegedly led the deputy on a brief pursuit, assaulted him after stopping, fled to his home and barricaded himself inside. Smith, leader of the patrol’s regional tactical team, went in with a group of officers and a police dog an hour later.

Authorities say Lang shot and killed Smith, 51, as he entered the home’s main floor. Two officers stayed in Lang’s basement for safety reasons, and an hourslong standoff ensued. Troopers later entered in an armored vehicle after negotiations broke down, and Lang allegedly shot at them. Troopers returned fire, striking Lang in the head and chest.

Lang has since been released from a hospital and is being held at the Black Hawk County jail while awaiting trial on charges of first-degree murder, attempted murder and assaulting a police officer.

The Iowa attorney general’s office ruled Monday that the three troopers and a Hardin County deputy who fired at Lang were legally justified in doing so.

Drunken driving offenders in Iowa are required to install ignition interlock devices as a condition of obtaining a temporary restricted license so they can drive while suspended. Those with multiple offenses are required to install the devices for one year as part of a condition of license reinstatement.

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