Patrick Smith was the type of guy to always lend a helping hand, wife Elizabeth Smith said.
So it wasn't out of the ordinary that he went to check on the house of a concerned next-door neighbor who heard noises outside her home. What happened next would rock his family.
Smith, 41, was shot multiple times by an alleged burglar running from officers, police said. He spent the next eight days in a hospital, his wife said, dying on Thanksgiving day.
The incident began November 14 in Barstow, a city 115 miles northeast of Los Angeles, when police received a call about a burglary, according to a news release from the Barstow Police Department. The caller said their neighbor's home was being broken into and that flashlights could be seen inside the neighbor's home. Meanwhile, Elizabeth Smith said, a different neighbor called their house because she heard noises outside.
When officers arrived, they chased two teenage boys on foot to the back of the burglarized home and lost sight of them. As officers were searching for the boys, they heard multiple gunshots from the side of a nearby home, police said. That's where officers found Smith suffering from multiple gunshot wounds.
Smith, police said, was shot after walking to the side of the home and being confronted by one of the boys. CNN affiliate KTLA reports that Smith was shot eight times.
Smith was flown to a local hospital, police said. Officers found a loaded handgun near the scene of the shooting, police said. Evidence technicians confirmed the handgun found by the officers matched the caliber of the shell casings found at the scene of the shooting, police said.
Four teenage boys, ages 15 to 17, were arrested at the scene. Police have identified the suspected shooter as Leslie Hawkins, 18. Detectives searched the scene for Hawkins but were unable to locate him. KTLA reports that Hawkins is still at large.
'No one saw it coming'
Smith lived eight days after his injuries, Elizabeth Smith said.
"He went in with eight gunshot wounds, a broken thumb/wrist, fractured jaw, split tongue, missing teeth, two collapsed lungs, and almost completely devoid of blood," she told KTLA. Elizabeth Smith said her husband underwent multiple surgeries.
She told CNN on Sunday she wasn't able to ride with her husband to the hospital, so she feared she wouldn't get a chance to say goodbye.
"To be given a week to stay with him is priceless," she said.
Smith spent the entire eight days alternating among the the operating room, intensive care unit and the surgical ward.
"He was in really good spirits," Elizabeth Smith said.
One of the most memorable days, she said, was November 18. The couple are huge Pittsburgh Steelers fans, she said. So when the Steelers were playing the Jacksonville Jaguars that Sunday, she knew she had to find a way to download a game and invite family over.
"We were able to have a Steelers game party," she said.
The group ended up watching the game on Elizabeth's laptop in Smith's hospital room, she said.
"He told me days later that it was one of the greatest things," she said. "He was really looking forward to watching the Steelers-Broncos game" on Sunday.
But things took an unexpected turn. The night before Thanksgiving, Elizabeth Smith said, she and her husband stayed up late watching the finale of "American Horror Story" and discussing their differing theories on the show.
"That's what we did, we were nerds together," she said. The couple had been together 10 years and married for seven.
On Thanksgiving day, Smith was rushed to the intensive care unit after he began vomiting, Elizabeth Smith said. After multiple rounds of CPR, he died in the ICU, she said. His cause of death is still unknown.
"It was an absolute shock what happened that afternoon, no one saw it coming," Elizabeth Smith said.
Despite his passing, Smith's mother-in-law Deanna Dibble said she feels the family was given extra time.
"We were given one more week with him to say goodbye," she said through tears.
Smith, a California native, worked as a facilities maintenance manager in Barstow. His wife and mother-in-law described the 6-foot-5-inch, 350-pound man as a gentle giant who smiled a lot.
"We relied on Patrick to be our savior, he was the person who protected us. He was just so big," Dibble said.
He leaves behind not only his wife, but the couple's 5-year-old son, Dyllinger.
"He knows his dad is in heaven and is an angel now," Elizabeth Smith said.
A GoFundMe page was set up originally to help Smith get "back on his feet." As of Monday afternoon, the page had raised over $42,000.