AKRON, Ohio — A beekeeper for a dozen years, Sarah Smithers was tending to some of her honey bees around 5 p.m. Sunday when she was startled by the sound of gunshots on East Buchtel Avenue in Akron.
'It was like, 'What the hell?'" Smithers said. "I saw a dude with a gun shooting."
What Smithers didn't realize at the time was that the gunfire killed 48-year-old Kristopher Roukey, a Lyft driver and a married father of two from Hudson.
Smithers, who was wearing half of her white bee suit, stood out and feared she could become the next shooting victim so she quickly took steps to protect herself.
"I backed the hell up," she said.
Smithers took cover behind some trees and then grabbed her cell phone. She took four pictures of the suspect as he walked down the street.
"There was a lot of adrenaline. I will say that much. I didn't know if he was gonna shoot me too, so I'm taking pictures as fast as I can and backing up," Smithers told News 5. "Shoot somebody in broad daylight and just walk away? I mean, get him!"
Smithers then called 911 and in a calm voice detailed what she witnessed.
"I just saw a guy shoot at a car as he walked down the street and then he just put it in his pocket and just kept walking. I got a picture of him," she told the operator.
She also told the operator that the man was wearing a blue hoodie and a blue mask and was heading west on Buchtel.
"Then I noticed all the cops coming around so I flagged one down and showed them the pictures on my phone just to get a better description so they'd know exactly what they were looking at," Smithers explained.
The next day, police arrested their suspect, 23-year-old Kahlyl Powe, in the same neighborhood. Police said Powe was a passenger in Roukey's car and shot the driver after getting of the vehicle. Detectives have not mentioned a motive.
Powe has pleaded not guilty to murder and is being held in the Summit County Jail on a $1 million bond.
Akron police said the efforts of the beekeeper-turned-witness made a big difference in the early stages of the investigation. Lt. Michael Miller believes Powe is the man Smithers photographed.
"I think it's immeasurable from the standpoint it really dictated the momentum, the early momentum that the investigation took," Miller said.
Miller said the department intends to talk to Summit County Crimestoppers to discuss the possibility of giving Smithers a reward for her role in helping police solve the high-profile murder.
"Undeniably, her information did assist us greatly," Miller said.
Smithers appreciates the reward consideration but stressed that's not the point of what she did.
"I just wanted to make sure the cops had every information I could think of to find him as fast as they could," she said.
With the suspect locked up, Smithers said her thoughts are with Roukey and getting justice for his family.
"It makes me really happy to know that maybe I had something in getting the guy who did this," she said.