Prominent Dallas civil lawyer killed in shootout with policeUpdated: 04 January 2014 10:38 PM
Michael Edward Schmidt
All seemed well Wednesday evening when Dallas civil lawyer Michael Edward Schmidt spoke on the phone with his father, who is also his law partner.
“He was just marvelous,” C.L. Mike Schmidt said. “Couldn’t be better.”
Less than 12 hours later, C.L. Schmidt received a call from his son’s ex-wife. Michael Schmidt, 47, was dead after starting a shootout with Dallas police officers at his Uptown apartment tower.
His 11-year-old daughter was in the hallway at the time of the shooting, but officers said they could not see her.
A dispatch recording indicates that Schmidt appeared to be “kinda high.” Authorities are awaiting toxicology results to determine what, if any, drugs he may have been taking.
Many of those who knew the younger Schmidt said they were dumbfounded by the situation. They described him as a devoted father, kind man and a hardworking lawyer.
“It’s hard to believe that somebody with as much going for him would have this event,” C.L. Schmidt said.
Police say the shootout began around 1:45 a.m. Thursday when police were called to the Glass House by Windsor building after Schmidt told an employee there that he had a break-in. The two then hid in the apartment office, according to dispatch recordings.
When officers arrived, Schmidt barricaded himself in a hallway near the high-rise’s lobby and fired several shots at them, authorities said. The officers took cover.
Police said officers tried to negotiate with Schmidt, but he continued shooting and they were forced to return fire, killing him. No officers or other residents were injured, police said.
A sergeant and the three officers involved have been placed on routine administrative leave.
Crews were replacing several shattered glass panes at the high rise Thursday afternoon. Schmidt recently began living there after he split with his wife, Wendy. They had previously lived in University Park with their four children, ranging in age from 11 to 20.
Susan McMordie, Schmidt’s former mother-in-law, said the couple grew up in the Park Cities and had been together since they were teenagers. They dated in college at Southern Methodist University and were married for more than 20 years before the divorce.
McMordie said Schmidt “couldn’t have been nicer” to her, even after the divorce. She said Schmidt “just had some problems along the way,” but declined to elaborate. She said her daughter was “very sad” and is still trying to make sense of what happened while caring for the couple’s kids.
Professionally, colleagues saw Schmidt as a rising star.
He was helping run his father’s Dallas law firm that he joined in 1992 when he was fresh out of Oklahoma City University law school. His father, who still works for the firm but lives in New Mexico, said the two never had conflicts and acted in concert.
Schmidt also had a real connection with people, his friend and fellow lawyer Randy Johnston said.
“The clients that hired Michael didn’t just get his head, they got his heart,” Johnston said.
Nicholas Turchiano, whom Schmidt represented in a 2010 personal injury case, said he was impressed by his counsel.
“I don’t have anything but positive things to say about him,” Turchiano said. “I’m just beside myself because he’s such a nice person and a very talented lawyer.”
Schmidt represented the family of a woman who was run over by a monster truck outside a Dallas strip club. In a unanimous verdict in February 2013, the jury awarded $10.5 million to the family of 23-year-old Kasey McKenzie, who sued the Spearmint Rhino and the truck driver.
Dallas lawyer Mark Siegel recruited Schmidt to serve as the lead attorney on the case. He said he “had faith in his competence” and respected him as a person.
“I’ve never heard him say anything bad about anybody,” Siegel said. “He may not have liked some lawyers’ approach to litigation, but he wouldn’t really bad-mouth that lawyer, which is admirable. It takes a lot of lawyers a long time to learn that.”
No sign of trouble
C.L. Schmidt said he spoke with his son several times each day, and that his son confided in him. He said he would have known if there was something wrong.
Schmidt’s even-keeled nature makes his violent death more troubling, his friends said.
“The circumstances of his death raise an awful lot of questions that cause me concern, make me wonder if there was something going on that I couldn’t see or should have helped him with,” Johnston said. “Whatever the explanation is, I suspect I will feel guilt for not seeing signs of it earlier and not having been there to help him earlier.
“If he died scared and tormented, that will really bother me.”
Staff writer Christina Rosales contributed to this report.
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