Slain Dallas police officer Michael Smith, 55. (Todd Wagner/Todd Wagner)

Michael Smith was the one always standing guard by the tree fort in the vast lobby of Watermark Community Church in Dallas, where he worked as a uniformed security officer in recent years, greeting parents and children and ushering them on to their Sunday programs. On the church’s Facebook page Friday, members recalled him handing out Dallas Police Department stickers to their kids, or running after them down the hallway, or showing them his police cruiser.

“He was outgoing but also very tender and unassuming,” said Wes Butler, the director of family and children’s ministries at Watermark. “He was just there, you know? People naturally engaged with him. He was one of the good guys, the one you’d hope your kids would go to if they ran into trouble.”

One church member recalled how Smith mentored him when he was deciding to become a police officer, and later, too, when he decided to leave the force.

Another member, Bob Crotty, said Smith “lived out his faith in Jesus Christ,” and exuded a warmth and genuineness that drew people to him.

Patrick Zamarripa, Lorne Ahrens, Michael Smith and Michael Krol of the Dallas Police Department and Brent Thompson of Dallas Area Rapid Transit are the five victims who were killed in Thursday’s shooting in Dallas. Seven others were wounded. (Erin Patrick O'Connor/The Washington Post)

“He was a guy who really cared about other people,” he said. “As a result, other people loved him, too. It breaks your heart.”

Smith, 55, was a former Army ranger who joined the police force in 1989, according to Texas television station KFDM, which spoke with his sister. He had two daughters, ages 14 and 10, with his wife of 17 years, Heidi.

“All of the Smith family, friends and acquaintances are devastated and are trying to figure out how to help the family navigate through these times,” a friend wrote on a GoFundMe page set up to raise money for the Smith family.

Smith’s pastor, Todd Wagner, described him as a “friend and faithful servant” who “understood the power of love.”

“Even when serving here as part of his job, he understood that loving people was the best way to protect and serve them,” Wagner said in a statement. “Mike wasn’t just concerned with safety and security at Watermark or in Dallas. It genuinely troubled him when he saw people treated as objects or when protocol got in the way of personal care. He never compromised his responsibilities, but he never walked away from a compassionate response.”

Another member tried to imagine what it would be like at church this Sunday, when thousands of members realize that the officer who always greeted them was among those killed in downtown Dallas Thursday night.

“I promise you his presence will absolutely be missed in that one spot” by the tree fort, said Nathan Wagnon, who works in the men’s ministry. “Probably a lot of people are going to know we lost five police officers, but probably they are not going to know he was one of them. I promise you on Sunday when people show up, they’ll feel that punch in the gut.”