A former Birmingham police officer who died 25 years after he was shot while rescuing a small child from a domestic situation was remembered Thursday for his commitment to service and his life-long optimism despite his physical struggles.
The 63-year-old Smith died in December of 2020 after a fall at his residence. Authorities said fall was a result of the shooting 25 years and deemed it a line-of-duty death.
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall met with the family members of Randall Versie “Randy” Smith. Thursday’s small ceremony was held at the Birmingham Police Department headquarters.
“For him to be honored today, to remember his story and the way he served the community and our family, we really appreciate that,’’ said Smith’s oldest daughter, Leslie Simonetti. “He loved life.”
It was March 22, 1995, when Smith and other officers were called to a 3 a.m. domestic dispute in Ensley. Smith was a morning-shift patrolman at the West Precinct with seven years on the force and several commendations when he responded to the domestic incident in which a toddler had been left inside the house with an angry gunman.
Smith went inside. He grabbed the child and rushed to safety, only to encounter a different kind of danger.
His partner, Sgt. Ronnie Hull, had heard the commotion and was headed for the door when the two collided and Hull’s gun went off, according to the official police investigation.
Doctors gave Smith a 15 percent chance of survival. They said he’d never walk again and that he would have significantly diminished thought capacity.
Smith spent weeks in a coma after undergoing hours of surgery at University Hospital. He was later transferred to Spain Rehabilitation Center.
He underwent at least 49 surgeries and required round-the-clock care. He was legally blind and deaf in the right ear. He told AL.com in 2007 that he had frequent seizures, and had to learn to walk, talk and think again.
“It’s important to acknowledge how he responded to that tragic circumstance,’’ Marshall said. “He dealt with it with a spirit of optimism and love.”
During his own recovery, Smith frequented visited with other head injury patients at the Lakeshore Foundation and Alabama Head Injury Foundation ‘’to share hope and optimism with them,’’ Marshall said.
Smith grew up in Homewood, where he co-captained the Homewood High School football team that won the state championship in 1974. He went on to join the U.S. Army before becoming a Birmingham police officer in January 1988.
He was appointed grand marshal of the 2008 We Love Homewood Day parade and received a Quality of Life award from the mayor.
Marshall on Thursday also paid tribute in an earlier ceremony to retired Blount County Deputy Harry “Buddy” Hutchinson who died last year.
Hutchinson had remained active with the department after retiring as a deputy. He headed the office’s reserve program and had previously served as a police officer in Oneonta and Snead.
Hutchinson died from COVID in August of 2021.
Marshall was also set to honor Jefferson County sheriff’s Deputy Willie Earl Hall, who also died of Covid in September. That ceremony had to be cancelled and will be rescheduled.
“Last year was a tragic year for us in Alabama. We lost 11 officers in the line of duty, some of them the result of felonious actions of the offender but also let us remember that we lost law enforcement officers to a pandemic,’’ Marshall said.
“I think it is important to acknowledge and recognize that as law enforcement every day goes out to protect and serve and risk their lives to those who would do them harm, let’s recognize that like front line health care workers, law enforcement also risked their lives during a pandemic in which they were potentially exposed to what took the life of so many,’’ Marshall said.
The attorney general presented Smith’s family with a statue of praying hands and a framed resolution.
“We continue to lift up not only those who protect and serve but those family members who are willing to allow their loved ones to do the job they love,’’ Marshall told the family. “Not only do we continue to remember Officer Smith, but also we surround you with love and prayer.”