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Trooper reminisces about job as he nears retirement

MSP Trooper 1st Class D. Wayne Smith recalls role in apprehension of sniper suspects

May 18, 2010|By MARLO BARNHART

SMITHSBURG -- A brief moment in time on Oct. 24, 2002, changed the course of Maryland State Police Trooper 1st Class D. Wayne Smith's life forever.

On routine patrol in the early-morning hours that day, Smith was called to the westbound Interstate 70 rest area near the Washington-Frederick county line, where he found himself at the center of a nationwide manhunt for two snipers who had been terrorizing the metropolitan Washington, D.C. area.

Smith, 46, positioned himself at the exit, standing alone with a shotgun outside his cruiser in case the occupants of the car tried to leave.

He and other troopers remained at their posts until daylight when John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo were taken into custody.

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For his efforts, Smith was honored at state police headquarters in Pikesville, Md., as well as by his home community of Smithsburg, which feted him at the town fire hall.

With retirement looming June 1, Smith is finishing his state police career in the criminal intelligence division headquartered in Frederick County.

The division formerly was called Homeland Security and Intelligence, Smith said. It has expanded, gotten a new name and incorporated about 80 troopers like Smith who track down terrorism tips.

"We get a lot of those," Smith said.

The tips often involve people taking pictures of transportation systems, tunnels, buildings and the like, he said.

"The government told people what to look for, but we have to be careful of people's rights," Smith said.

The job started with high-profile cases that were worked in tandem with the federal government. A lot of emphasis was placed on bringing departments together and investigating threats against the governor or police officers.

"We've learned we have to work smarter rather than bigger," Smith said, alluding to tight governmental budgets.

Smith was named Trooper of the Year for 2005 for his investigative work.

"I always wanted to be a police officer," said Smith, who was hired for the job at 18 years old. "My father instilled in me a responsibility to others."

The son of Steve and Carolyn Smith said he was just a kid when he met a trooper one day in his father's Smithsburg restaurant.

"He handed me a bullet from his belt, and told me to sit next to him and hold it in case he needed it," Smith said.

Over the years, Smith spent the bulk of his time on the job, but he was able to remain involved in the lives of his daughter and son, now 19 and 17.

As a trooper, Smith said he was happy that he, too, could have an impact on kids in his neighborhood.

"It's a proud organization, and I am proud to be a trooper," he said.

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