Logan Gentry said his friend Ronnie Smith, who was fatally shot while jogging in Benghazi, Libya, on Thursday, did not fear his experience abroad.
Smith, 33, joked with everyone, while also caring for others and looking for ways to serve them, Gentry said.
“He didn’t like the heightened violence [in Libya] at all, but he wasn’t afraid,” Gentry said in an email. “Part of me wonders, ‘Why were you out running in that environment?’ But he would probably say, ‘Why not?’ He enjoyed life and feared very little. It is what made him so great.”
Smith was shot by an unknown assailant or assailants as he jogged in an affluent central neighborhood of Benghazi, not far from the U.S. Consulate where an attack in September 2012 killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf confirmed that teacher Ronald Thomas Smith II was shot and killed in Benghazi and offered condolences to his "family, friends and loved ones."
Students and friends reminisced about Smith on Twitter under the hashtag #MrSmithMemories. He earned a master’s degree in chemistry at the University of Texas at Austin in 2006 and was remembered as a devoted teacher and family man.
Rahman Bader, one of Smith’s students at the International School in Benghazi, described him as intelligent and caring.
“He would tell all the students, ‘it’s not that bad here!’ and ‘it’s not that unsafe, you shouldn’t complain’ and try and motivate them by telling us ‘this country has so much potential, and unless you fulfill your potential, this country won’t,’” Bader said in an email.
At Austin Stone Church, they referred to Smith as “our dear brother Ronnie Smith.” Before moving to Benghazi, Smith was a member of the church staff, according to a church statement.
“Many of us knew Ronnie and his family well,” the church statement said. “Although we grieve because we have lost a friend, a husband and a father, we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God has a greater purpose than we can imagine right now.”
Times staff writers La Ganga and Hennessy-Fiske reported from Seattle and Houston, respectively. Staff writer Laura King in Cairo contributed to this report.