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Friends and co-workers of Wayne County Sheriff's Sgt. Lee Smith, who said goodbye to him at his funeral last month, plan to gather Thursday to say hello to his family.

Smith was killed by a hit-and-run driver Aug. 14 while he was off duty, jogging on Hines Drive in Westland. He was 55 and planned to retire Oct. 1.

A fundraiser is scheduled from 4-9 p.m. Thursday at Harry's bar, 2482 Clifford in Detroit. Proceeds from the $20 cover charge will go to Smith's family, organizers said.

"We just want his family to know how much he was loved," Wayne County Sheriff's Sgt. Radken Smith said. 

"A lot of us spent more time with him than we did our own families," said Smith, who is not related to Lee Smith. "He trained me when I came in in 2003, and we worked together. When you spend so much time with someone, we become extended family.

"This (party) will be our way to show our appreciation for him training so many of us, and what he did for the community as a Wayne County sheriff's deputy," Radken Smith said.

Lee Smith was a longtime trainer in the sheriff's department who taught recruits how to shoot, ride horses and motorcycles, as well as drilling them in defensive tactics.

"He was an all-around great guy," said Steve Starks, a retired sheriff's deputy who taught firearm classes to recruits with Smith for 20 years. "He was always willing to help someone. He was a jack of all trades, and taught a lot of people different things."

Desmond Robinson, 47, was charged last month with reckless driving causing death, failure to stop at an injury accident scene and tampering with evidence. If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in prison. Robinson allegedly struck Smith with his SUV and dragged him for 50 to 60 yards before speeding from the scene. 

A bond hearing has been set for Sept. 17. Robinson is in the Wayne County Jail in lieu of $1 million cash bond as he awaits his scheduled Dec. 10 trial.

Sheriff's Sgt. Michelle Boehmer said she and other co-workers are still reeling from Smith's death.

"He was just so well-respected and loved throughout the department," she said. "Even people who weren't in the law enforcement community loved him."

After Smith's death, Boehmer wrote his biography, in which she called him "our Superman."

"Lee Smith had a generous heart," she wrote. "He was particularly known for his patience and willingness to devote extra time and instruction to any of his civilian or law enforcement students who might need additional tutoring to learn the skills he was teaching ... heaven has gained a fierce, but gentle warrior."

Detroit Police Officers Association president Mark Diaz said he plans to attend Thursday's party to show support for fellow officers and Smith's family.

"Hopefully this will help the family," he said. "A lot of times when someone dies, families aren't prepared to carry on when they lose that income. So the law enforcement community comes together in times like this to help. We mourn together."

ghunter@detroitnews.com
(313) 222-2134
Twitter: @GeorgeHunter_DN

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