Bobby Smith, a former Louisiana state trooper blinded by a shotgun blast during a 1986 traffic stop who went on to become a psychologist and author who helped counsel law enforcement officers, died Sunday at the age of 66.
Smith, who was 33 when he lost his sight in the on-duty shooting in Franklin Parish, authored several books and built a career speaking with groups of police officers and emergency first responders about dealing with on-duty trauma and overcoming personal struggles.
He returned to the Louisiana State Police in 2008 as a staff adviser to Col. Mike Edmonson, the State Police superintendent. Smith helped establish the Trooper Assistance Program and worked as a peer counselor, said Sgt. Jared Sandifer, a State Police spokesman.
Smith was working a detail to catch drunk drivers with local sheriff’s deputies near Winnsboro on March 14, 1986 when a motorist, 39-year-old Fred Anderson Jr., of Amite, raced past their checkpoint before eventually stopping. Smith was approaching Anderson’s Dodge Colt when Anderson opened fire with a 12-gauge shotgun.
Anderson died after Smith and several sheriff’s deputies returned fire. Smith, who’d joined State Police three years earlier after working as a policeman in Monroe and West Monroe, survived but lost sight in both his eyes.
The shooting cost Smith his career as an officer and also, he wrote on his website, led to financial hardships and destroyed his marriage, although he later remarried.
In 1997, his 22-year-old daughter, Kim Smith, was killed in a car accident. He later lost his only son, 20-year-old Brad Elliott Smith, who died in 2010.
Those losses, Smith wrote on the website for his public speaking firm, are part of what inspired him to counsel others. He earned a PhD in counseling and psychology in 2000. His work since rejoining State Police focused on helping troopers cope with the stress of the job.
“You can’t go home after having a child die in your arms and say everything is fine,” Smith told The Advocate in September 2015. “But you can tell (your spouse), ‘I had a rough day today. Give me a few minutes to unwind.’ ”
Edmonson, the State Police superintendent, said he last saw Smith on Saturday after bringing him home from the funeral services for slain West Baton Rouge sheriff’s deputy Donna LeBlanc and her daughter Carli LeBlanc, who authorities say were both killed last week by a neighbor who then shot himself.
Edmonson said Smith spoke about his wife, Janie Smith, who survives him, and about his two children who both preceded him in death.
“He was incredibly proud to be a Louisiana State Trooper, a family he held close in his heart,” Edmonson said. “We lost a part of all of us this morning, but Bobby Smith continues to guide all whom he touched. Heaven has welcomed home a hero.”