Slain TX Rookie's Career Choice Made In Sixth Grade
Dallas Morning News via YellowBrix
December 30, 2010
ARLINGTON, TX – An ever-present smile, eternally optimistic, easygoing. Hardworking and humble.
Jillian Michelle Smith, a police officer for less than a year, was remembered by fellow Arlington officers and friends as a rookie who never stopped showing her excitement over a dream accomplished. She wanted to be a police officer ever since the sixth grade.
“The one thing that cannot come out of my mind is her smile,” said Officer Matt Thorpe, one of Smith’s classmates at the Arlington Police Academy. “She had a glow about her that was unmistakable.”
She died Tuesday night in the line of duty, protecting an 11-year-old girl from what police said was the gunfire of her mother’s ex-boyfriend.
Smith, 24, was an Arlington native. She worshipped at Mount Olive Baptist Church and attended Arlington schools, graduating from Seguin High in 2005.
She first became interested in law enforcement in the sixth grade, when she participated in her school’s DARE program, where police officers work with students to teach them ways to resist peer pressure and avoid drugs and violence.
Arlington Police Chief Theron Bowman called Smith’s death a “great loss” and “great tragedy.”
“Since sixth grade, Jillian has purposefully made choices and decisions in her life that would allow her to accomplish her goal of becoming a police officer,” Bowman said.
Barnes Samuel Nettles also fatally shot himself, police say.
Smith graduated from the Arlington Police Academy in August and had completed her field training just two weeks ago.
“She sometimes tried to hide how much all this meant to her,” said Officer Christin Matys, another academy classmate.
Friends also said she had a good sense of humor. Officer Brittani Winkler, who called Smith her closest friend from the academy, said Smith often wore brightly colored fingernail polish.
Smith said one time that if the polish were ever banned by the department, she wanted the rule to be made in her honor.
“One day I want to have that named after me,” Smith told Winkler in jest.
Smith graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington in 2009 with a criminology degree. She was a diligent student who was courteous and charismatic, said UTA criminology department chairman Alex del Carmen.
“Out of the roughly 600 students we have at the undergraduate level in our department, she was someone that stood out,” he said. He called her death devastating.
“She was interested in helping others,” del Carmen said, recounting their conversations. “She wanted to serve. She wanted to protect.”
Arlington Mayor Robert Cluck recalled meeting Smith during a police ceremony.
“You could tell she had just achieved what she had been working for, for a very long period of time,” he said. “She was indeed living her dream.”