Slain Stone County sheriff’s deputy remembered at funeral service

Law enforcement officers and others prepare to move the American flag-draped casket of Stone County Deputy Justin Smith to a hearse after a funeral service at the Ozark Folk Center State Park auditorium in Mountain View on Saturday, Jan. 6, 2024. Smith was killed in the line of duty while serving a warrant on Jan. 2 near Mountain View. Speakers at the service included (front row, from left) Scott Bradley, executive director of the Arkansas Sheriffs’ Association; state Sen. Missy Irvin, R-Mountain View; Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin; and Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Colin Murphey)
Law enforcement officers and others prepare to move the American flag-draped casket of Stone County Deputy Justin Smith to a hearse after a funeral service at the Ozark Folk Center State Park auditorium in Mountain View on Saturday, Jan. 6, 2024. Smith was killed in the line of duty while serving a warrant on Jan. 2 near Mountain View. Speakers at the service included (front row, from left) Scott Bradley, executive director of the Arkansas Sheriffs’ Association; state Sen. Missy Irvin, R-Mountain View; Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin; and Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Colin Murphey)

MOUNTAIN VIEW -- Stone County sheriff's Deputy Justin Smith never wanted a "fuss to be made about him," and he'd be amazed by the number of people who came to his funeral on Saturday, his eldest son said during the service.

"He hated ties, absolutely hated them, would never wear them by his own choosing," Ashley Smith told a crowd at the Ozark Folk Center State Park auditorium in Mountain View.

Unlike his two brothers in the audience, Ashley Smith was wearing a tie -- one of his dad's.

"My brothers, you're not wearing ties, so Dad would be proud," Ashley Smith said.

Justin Smith, 60, was fatally shot Tuesday while trying to serve a misdemeanor terroristic threating warrant at a home north of Mountain View.

Clinton Hefton, 52, has been arrested on a capital murder charge in the killing.

On Saturday, hundreds of people joined the Smith family for the funeral. Speakers during the service, in addition to Ashley Smith, included Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, state Attorney General Tim Griffin, state Sen. Missy Irvin, R-Mountain View, and Scott Bradley, executive director of the Arkansas Sheriffs' Association.

Lt. Gov. Leslie Rutledge presented the family with an Arkansas flag that had flown over the state Capitol.

Due to the "influx of people planning to attend the services," the sheriff's office said on Facebook on Friday evening that the service would be simulcast at the Dome Church in Mountain View.

"I'm honored to be here with you this morning, to celebrate a man who was not just a member of our law enforcement. He was a husband, a father and a man of faith," Sanders said during her remarks.

"As governor, I spend time with our law enforcement officers every single day, and they don't do it for fame, and they don't do it for glory. It's something much much bigger. They do it because they love their communities, they love our state, and they love our fellow Arkansans."

Ashley Smith said that, as with any eldest son, he knew his dad "in all of his complicated forms."

"I knew the version of him that was strict, that taught me and my brothers manners whether we knew it or not at the time," Smith said.

"But I also remember the softness that he had. The way that he looked at people that he cared about, how he'd light up whenever he talked about his family or about hunting or something that really excited him, and how he'd punctuate every goodbye with an 'I love you.'

"Perhaps the hardest part of all of this is that my dad only exists in memories and photos, and that's all we'll have left of him. But as I'm reading that, I realize that that's not true, we have all of you as well, all these people who love him," Smith said.

He ended his remarks with an "I love you."

Born in Michigan, Justin Smith moved to Arkansas as a kid and was raised near Newport, according to his obituary.

He started his decades-long career with law enforcement as a corrections officer in Jackson and Independence counties and eventually moved on to the sheriff's office in Stone County, where he worked for 14 years.

As a a procession of law enforcement vehicles escorting Smith's body from the state Crime Laboratory in Little Rock arrived in Mountain View on Wednesday, community members, including children waving American flags, were waiting to greet them, Irvin said tearfully during her remarks.

"Those children learned from Justin's example and his tremendous sacrifice. There's no better way to pass on a love of mankind, a love of state and community and of country than what they were able to participate in as we welcomed him back home to Stone County," she said.

Smith is survived by his three sons, his wife Lori, his three stepchildren, 14 grandchildren and 4 siblings.

"We know that he will join God in protecting each of you and your entire family, as he did while he was still with us," Irvin told the Smith family in the audience. "Thank you so much for being so generous and letting us in the community of Stone County grieve with you."

Choir members of the Smith family's church, Arbanna Baptist Church in Mountain View, concluded the service with "Amazing Grace" as his casket was carried out of the building.

My Ly is a Report for America Corps member.

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