Father of 3 earned baseball scholarship, joined Navy after injury
The sailor who was killed in Thursday’s shooting rampage in Chattanooga, Tenn., was a married father of three girls and a former high school baseball star who had joined the Navy in 2010.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Randall Smith, 26, died at 2:17 a.m. Saturday of injuries he suffered Thursday afternoon. He was shot three times in the attack and had undergone surgery.
Both the Navy and Darlene Proxmire, a step-grandmother in Ohio, confirmed his identity.
Smith enlisted in the Navy in 2010 and was a logistics special boards ist, the Navy said in a statement. For three years, he was assigned to the USS Wasp, an amphibious assault ship which has a home port in Norfolk. He began his assignment in Chattanooga in August.
Smith was from Paulding, Ohio, a county seat near the Indiana border with about 3,500 residents.
He pitched for the Paulding High School Panthers baseball team.
“It is with great sadness that a graduate of Paulding passed away due to injuries sustained in Chattanooga,” Paulding County Sheriff Jason Landers said Saturday in a statement. Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) also offered his condolences in a tweet that said “Ohio has lost another hero. Prayers for Randall Smith of Paulding Co & his family.”
Proxmire said he had accepted a scholarship to play baseball at Defiance College, a Division III school in Defiance, Ohio. But Smith injured his shoulder and chose to enlist in the Navy afterward, she said.
The college said he attended for one semester in the fall of 2007.
On a Facebook page that appeared to belong to Smith, he talked about his wife — “4 years ago I married the perfect woman,” he wrote in January — and their three children. “Angie is at work and I get to spend all day with the 3 little Princesses. . . . no better way to spend Father’s Day,” he wrote in June.
“He loved his family,” Proxmire said in a phone interview. “His wife and his three little girls were his whole world.”
A friend, Cory Sholl, told CNN that he’d played sports with Smith when the two friends were growing up in Ohio.
“He’s an outgoing guy; he’s a fun guy; he’s someone you’d want to be around,” Sholl told CNN on Friday. In recent years, Smith had become a “family man” focused on his career, Sholl said.
On his Facebook page, Smith also wrote about his love for the Houston Astros baseball team and the U.S. women’s soccer team, and he also wrote repeatedly about the need to raise money for cancer research.
On Memorial Day, he also posted a photo of a young mother and child embracing next to the distinctive rounded gravestone of a fallen service member at Arlington National Cemetery. “Memorial Day,” the text on the photo said. “In case you thought it was about a 3 day weekend, parties or the beach.”