PHOENIX - Police are on the hunt for a killer who targeted an influential Arizona politician, after they identified Christopher Smith as the victim in Saturday’s deadly south Phoenix shooting.
“He really cared about things like the people in the state of Arizona, and wanted his life to count for something bigger than himself,” said Former Senate Minority Leader Dr. Tom Patterson, who hired Smith as his chief of staff. “I think that’s the thing that sets him apart from most of us.”
Patterson remembers Smith as the brightest guy in the room, a loyal friend and a behind the scenes player in Arizona politics.
“He had a tremendous influence on what happened in the State of Arizona, certainly in the Legislature during the 90s,” said Patterson.
Officers heard gun shots Saturday night around 8 p.m. while on an unrelated traffic stop, and went to investigate, according to Phoenix Police Sgt. Trent Crump. Crump said they found Smith in his Nissan in the street near 18th Avenue and Buckeye Road. Smith later died of his wounds at St. Joseph’s Hospital.
Crump said witnesses saw men running from the area, but police don’t know if they were involved in the murder, or what the motive was.
“I had talked to him just the day he died, and he was, to be honest, having a few problems in his life, but he seemed to be coming out of them,” said Patterson. “He was full of his usual hope and optimism and determination, and I was just feeling so happy and good for him.”
Smith had a long legacy in the Republican Party, serving as executive director of the Goldwater Institute and chief analyst for Senate finance staff. Patterson said he pulled strings on tax cuts, school choice, relaxing business regulation and welfare and environmental reform.
“Even those that were on the other side of the aisle politically from him, all liked him,” said Patterson.
On his Facebook page, Smith wrote, “I aspire to be a leader, a man of honor, a man of vision, a man of passion, a man of faith demonstrated by action, a true and loyal friend and a defender and promoter of liberty. Ah, so much hard work to do.”
“I think Christopher had a real strong passion for doing something good with his life, and he pulled that off,” said Patterson.
Copyright 2010 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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