SAN RAMON -- The Smith brothers -- Tommy, Patrick and Edward, all cops -- swapped stories the last time they got together Sunday night, at a restaurant bar after they had watched the 49ers game.

They didn't talk about when they'd meet next. Families in law enforcement rarely do.

"We were just fantasizing about what we were going to do, our three lives together, with the wives and the kids," said Patrick Smith, a Newark police officer.

When they parted that night, the tight-knit brothers said goodbye like they always do.

"Love you," they said. "Stay safe."

On Wednesday, brothers Patrick and Edward were left to say goodbye to their little brother, Tommy, one last time. He was killed by a fellow BART officer Tuesday during a search of a robbery suspect's apartment in Dublin.

The surviving Smith brothers gathered with their wives and children Wednesday at Tommy's hillside home in San Ramon, trying to make sense of the shocking tragedy that left their family suffering. Even as they grieved, they thought of the officer who had fired the fatal shot, and the impact the incident would have on his family.

"It's a tragic loss for us and a tragedy for them," Patrick Smith said. "I can't imagine what they're going through."

BART officers were stationed Wednesday outside the East Bay home of Officer Michael Maes, who sources confirmed is the colleague who shot Smith. An officer outside Maes' home said the family would not comment and asked that the family's privacy be respected.


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Exactly how and why Smith, 42, was killed in the friendly-fire incident is still a mystery. BART officials said little at a news conference Wednesday. The investigation is being conducted by the Alameda County Sheriff's Department, the same office where the oldest Smith brother works as a deputy.

The three brothers graduated from Moreau Catholic High School in Hayward and all lived within 20 minutes of each other in the East Bay; in their 20s, they all played on the same softball team. Their father, who ran the family's office supply company until he died four years ago, sponsored the team. Their mother kept score. On Friday nights, they would all gather for pizza and beer.

Although the youngest of the three, Tommy Smith was the first to join law enforcement, signing on as a cadet for BART police when he was just 19. He worked his way up to sergeant, leading the detective unit at the time of his death and earning the admiration of his colleagues.

BART police Sgt. Jason Ledford remembered one time in particular when Smith was searching for a robbery suspect on a stopped BART train in North Oakland. Smith pulled his patrol car to the shoulder of a freeway adjacent to the tracks. When he heard what sounded like a shot fired, he jumped over a barbed wire fence, jumped the third rail, crossed the tracks and climbed up on the platform, scrambling to back up his fellow officer and protect the public he was sworn to serve.

BART police Officer Tom Smith and his K-9 Boriswalk through a BART train in between the Milbrae and SFO BART stations in Milbrae, Calif. on  July 7, 2005.
BART police Officer Tom Smith and his K-9 Boriswalk through a BART train in between the Milbrae and SFO BART stations in Milbrae, Calif. on July 7, 2005. (Dean Coppola/Bay Area News Group Archives) (DEAN COPPOLA)

"He thought I was involved in a shooting," Ledford said. "Afterward I thought about that. That's wild, to do what he did."

Smith had their backs, and all the guys on the force knew it.

Lt. Lance Haight, a 17-year veteran on BART police, said that Smith, like all the officers, knew the inherent dangers of the job.

Still, he said, "I can remember more than once him commenting that BART police never had a fatality and how fortunate we were for that."

Smith was part of the team working to improve the training of BART officers in the aftermath of the Oscar Grant shooting, when a BART police officer shot Grant in the back on New Year's Day 2009. That officer, now no longer with the BART police, told investigators that he meant to reach for a stun gun.

When a BART officer fatally shot a homeless man at a San Francisco station in 2011, it was Smith who was tasked to explain the agency's response to a citizen advisory board.

"We had some members who were anti-police, regardless of how well the job was done," said Suzanne Angeli, a member of that board who also worked at BART for decades. "He handled those people extremely well. He handled racial issues extremely well. He didn't let things fluster him."

Smith and his wife and daughter were always together, neighbors said, playing in the front yard, washing the family cars or taking their dog, Boris, a retired K-9 German Shepherd, on walks. Last summer, they watched as Smith taught his daughter to ride a two-wheeler. On Christmas, the trio walked across the street to share a plate of Christmas cookies with the Patel family.

"He was a great family man," said Sejal Patel, 40. "He was such a down-to-earth person. You wouldn't think he was a cop. He was very soft-spoken."

At Smith's neatly landscaped home in a newer development, his brother Patrick said the family can't imagine life without him. The retirement the three brothers talked about sharing that Sunday night at the restaurant, the years they would play golf together and go to high school football games when their kids are teenagers won't happen the way they envisioned.

"Nobody knows what to do," he said.

The little cousins have lost their "Uncle Tommy," who was the first one to pitch them whiffle balls, shoot hoops or drive through two hours of traffic to watch one of their sports games.

"He was a hell of a father, a hell of a son, uncle and brother," he said. "What are you going to do? You can't replace that."

Staff writer Matt O'Brien contributed to this report. Contact Julia Prodis-Sulek at jsulek@mercurynews.com. Follow her at Twitter.com/juliasulek. Contact David DeBolt at ddebolt@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/daviddebolt.