Patrolman Daniel J. Smith

Patrolman Daniel J. Smith

Essex County Police Department, New Jersey

End of Watch Monday, September 17, 1984

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Daniel J. Smith

Patrolman Daniel Smith was shot and killed after stopping a stolen vehicle on I-280, between Center Street and Harrison Street, in East Orange. Patrolman Smith was shot in the head by a shotgun blast as he approached the vehicle.

The suspect and several accomplices were arrested and charged in connection with Patrolman Smith's murder and other related crimes. The suspect was convicted of first-degree murder, robbery, motor vehicle theft, illegal weapons possession, and sentenced to life plus 40 years in prison.

Patrolman Smith had served with the Essex County Police Department for two years. He is survived by his wife.


  • Age 27
  • Tour 2 years
  • Badge Not available

Incident Details

  • Cause Gunfire
  • Weapon Shotgun
  • Offender Sentenced to life

stolen vehicle

Most Recent Reflection

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Patch News
Aug 28, 2019

Community Honors Essex County Cop Fatally Shot On I-280

Essex County native Daniel Smith was 27-years-old when he died doing what he loved best… protecting and serving his community.

ESSEX COUNTY, NJ — Bloomfield native Daniel Smith was 27-years-old when he pulled over a driver for a traffic violation on I-280 in East Orange. And according to his supervisors, in those final moments – before the fatal shot rang out – the third-generation cop was doing what he loved best… protecting and serving his community.

As the 35th anniversary of his death approaches, officials gathered Wednesday to pay tribute to Smith, an Essex County law enforcement officer who was fatally shot during a traffic stop on Sept. 17, 2984.

With a misty-eyed crowd looking on, officials dedicated the "Patrolman Daniel 'Danny' J. Smith Memorial," which now has road signs in his honor on a stretch of I-280 between mile markers 11.1 and 12.4.

According to Essex County officials, the tragic shooting took place during a routine traffic stop:

"Smith, who was 27-years-old, was driving alone in his patrol car when he pulled over a motorist for a traffic violation near the Oakwood Avenue overpass. When he approached the driver's side door, the motorist fatally shot Smith. An East Orange police patrol arrived at the scene shortly and a brief chase ensued. It ended when the suspect crashed his car into the highway median. Police then arrested a man and a woman, and recovered several guns from the suspect's automobile."

The shooter was convicted and is currently serving a life sentence at East Jersey State Prison, authorities said.

Essex County officials said police work runs in Smith's blood; his grandfather, father and three uncles were all members of law enforcement agencies.

Smith graduated from the Essex County Police Academy in Cedar Grove and joined the Essex County Police Force in January 1983. He graduated from Bloomfield High School in 1975 and attended Fairleigh Dickenson University.

He is survived by his wife, Patricia, and his sister, Margaret Smith Harvey.

Several public officials offered glowing words in tribute to the late officer's memory.

"Danny's friends and colleagues never forgot, and every September 17th there are telephone calls, emails and text messages," said Captain Peter Corbo of the Essex County Sheriff's Office, who spoke on behalf of Smith's family.

"It gives me great pride in knowing that the thousands of people driving on Route 280 will see these signs and know Danny Smith was a trues Essex County hero," Corbo said.

Sen. Teresa Ruiz, who sponsored a resolution in Smith's honor, said the late officer was a member of the force for just about 18 months, but his enthusiasm, energy and dedication made an immediate impact.

Essex County Sheriff Armando Fontoura said it's important to never lose sight of what happened to Smith.

"As many of you know, the job as a police officer often puts our brave uniformed men and women in dangerous face-to-face confrontations with criminals who are often armed with deadly firepower," Fontoura said. "In order to keep our communities and neighbors safe, these are the accepted risks of our chosen profession, risks that were well known to Officer Daniel Smith and his family."

Retired Police Officer

August 29, 2019

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