Michael Smith: ‘One of the good guys,’ man of faith

Michael Smith was the one always standing guard by the tree fort in the vast lobby of Watermark Community Church in Dallas, where he worked as a uniformed security officer in recent years, greeting parents and kids and ushering them on to their Sunday programs. On the church’s Facebook page Friday, members recalled him handing out Dallas police department stickers to their kids, or running after them down the hallway, or showing them his police cruiser.

“He was outgoing but also very tender and unassuming,” said Wes Butler, the director of family and children’s ministries at Watermark. “He was just there, you know? People naturally engaged with him. He was one of the good guys, the one you’d hope your kids would go to if they ran into trouble.”

One member recalled how Smith mentored him when he was deciding to become a police officer, and later, too, when he decided to leave the force.

Another member, Bob Crotty, said Smith “lived out his faith in Jesus Christ,” and exuded a warmth and genuineness that drew people to him.

“He was a guy who really cared about other people,” he said. “As a result other people loved him, too. It breaks your heart.”

Smith, 55, was a former Army Ranger who joined the police force in 1989, according to Texas television station KDFM, which spoke with his sister. He had two daughters, ages 14 and 10, with his wife of 17 years, Heidi.

“All of the Smith family, friends and acquaintances are devastated and are trying to figure out how to help the family navigate through these times,” a friend wrote on a gofundme page set up to raise money for the Smith family.

Smith’s pastor, Todd Wagner, described him as a “friend and faithful servant” who “understood the power of love.”

“Even when serving here as part of his job he understood that loving people was the best way to protect and serve them,” Wagner said in a statement. “Mike wasn’t just concerned with safety and security at Watermark or in Dallas. It genuinely troubled him when he saw people treated as objects or when protocol got in the way of personal care. He never compromised his responsibilities, but he never walked away from a compassionate response.”

Another member tried to imagine what it would be like at church this Sunday, when thousands of members realize that the officer who always greeted them was among those killed in downtown Dallas Thursday night.

“I promise you his presence will absolutely be missed in that one spot” by the tree fort, said Nathan Wagnon, who works in the men’s ministry. “Probably a lot of people are going to know we lost five police officers, but probably they are not going to know he was one of them. I promise you on Sunday when people show up, they’ll feel that punch in the gut.”

Lorne Ahrens: Father of two had played semi-pro football

The 6-foot-5, 300-pound former semi-pro football player could turn heads just by showing up, according to his father-in-law, Charlie Buckingham.

“He was a big ol’ boy,” Buckingham said Friday, the day after Ahrens was killed in the sniper attack on Dallas police officers. “Big as he is, just walking down the street he cut a real figure. I’m sure it helped him in his work.”

Buckingham had been watching the events in downtown Dallas unfold from his home in Burleson, Texas, a few miles from where Ahrens lived with Buckingham’s daughter Katrina and the couples’ children, a 10-year-old girl and 8-year-old boy.

He knew his son-in-law could be there. He knew his daughter, a Dallas police detective, was still asleep. She had gone to bed early in order to be up by 3 a.m. for an early shift. Buckingham and his wife decided to drive over.

“We got there just a few minutes after the Dallas police knocked on her door,” Buckingham. “They told her she should come down to the hospital with them.”According to Buckingham, Ahrens was already out of surgery when Katrina Ahrens got there. But then something went wrong.

“They had to take him back in,” Buckingham said with an exhausted voice. “She said he didn’t make it.”

Dallas police said Senior Cpl. Lorne Ahrens was a 14-year veteran of the department. He worked for a time in a unit serving warrants, Buckingham said, an assignment where danger can come with any door knock. Ahrens may have quelled a lot of potential resistance with his bulk, a shaved head and heavily tattooed arms.

The couple had an understanding about their chosen careers.

“She was fine with it,” Buckingham said. “She was a police officer too.”

Earlier, Ahrens had been an officer in a sheriff’s department in his native California, according to Buckingham. He grew up near Los Angeles, his father-law said, and still has family in Simi Valley. He played a few years of semi-professional football in the state.