TRUMANN A police officer was shot to death in a Tuesday night traffic stop in this Poinsett County town by a passenger who was also shot in the gunbattle, authorities said Wednesday.
Officer Jonathan Schmidt, 30, was shot about 11:30 p.m. on South Pine Street at the entrance of the Cottonwood Manor Apartments, Police Chief Tony Rusher said.
Schmidt was taken to a Jonesboro hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Sgt. Corey Overstreet, 41, who provided backup for Schmidt, was treated for an injury and released from a local hospital. Police said Overstreet was not shot.
“We’re trying to move forward,” Rusher said in a shaky voice at a Wednesday afternoon news conference. “It’s a bad loss for us.”
Police said Jerry Lard, 37, of Trumann fired several rounds at officers during the traffic stop before he was hit by return gunfire. Lard was being treated at a Jonesboro hospital Wednesday. Police would not discuss the extent of his injuries.
Officials would not elaborate on the handgun that they say Lard used, noting that they would not release details of the shooting because it is an ongoing investigation. Trumann police officers use .40-caliber handguns.
No charges had been filed Wednesday. Second Judicial District prosecutor Scott Ellington of Jonesboro said, “We’ll review the [Arkansas State Police] file once it’s completed and determine what charges to file.”
According to police, Schmidt stopped a car driven by Brian Keith Elumbaugh of Trumann on Pine Street at 11:27 p.m. Tuesday. Elumbaugh’s girlfriend, Lard and a second woman were also in the car, authorities said.
Schmidt checked the vehicle’s license plate and discovered that the car was not covered by liability insurance, police said. Also, three of the four people in the car had outstanding misdemeanor warrants, officers reported.
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette efforts to locate the car’s occupants Wednesday were unsuccessful. But Elumbaugh reportedly told The Associated Press that Schmidt was at first joking with the people in the car.
Eventually Lard asked Schmidt, “What are you going to do? What are you going to do now?,” according to AP.
Schmidt opened the back door of the passenger side of the car and was “confronted” by Lard, who had a handgun, state police spokesman Bill Sadler said.
Schmidt was shot in the neck, then pushed Overstreet to safety, the AP reported.
Schmidt then turned back toward Lard and began to return fire, the AP reported. The AP quoted Elumbaugh as saying Lard was cursing Schmidt during the shooting.
Schmidt and Overstreet were the only two officers from the 15-officer force on duty Tuesday night, Rusher said. Both were wearing bullet-resistant vests that Rusher had recently purchased.
“Officer Schmidt went on patrol duty at 10 p.m. Tuesday,” Sadler said. “He was not able to go home last night to his family.”
Video cameras mounted on Schmidt’s and Overstreet’s patrol vehicles captured the shooting, state police investigator Brant Tosh said.
“The reviews off the video will be a critical part of our investigation,” Tosh said.
Investigators will also review audio recorded between the officers and the dispatcher.
Schmidt was married and had three children, a 12-year old daughter and two sons, a 10-year-old and an 18-month old. Rusher requested privacy for the family and said he would provide details about Schmidt’s funeral when arrangements are made.
Schmidt had worked at the Trumann Police Department for four years. He was named the city’s Officer of the Year and won an award from the American Red Cross last year for saving the life of a youngster who was choking, Rusher said.
“He was a good guy,” Rusher said. “He coached sports, and he loved his job.”
Flags in town were flown at half-staff in honor of the slain officer Wednesday.
A sign outside a Sonic Drive-In on U.S. 69 West read: “Fallen but not forgotten.”
Police spent most of Wednesday morning interviewing witnesses at the Cottonwood Manor Apartments and picking up spent shell casings.
One bullet passed through the wall of Rebecca Bishop’s apartment and struck a couch inside.
“She slept through it,” Kevin Bishop said of his mother. “I checked on her. We didn’t see the bullet hole until later.”
Kevin Bishop said he lives near the back of the apartment complex in southwest Trumann and confused the gunfire for someone knocking on his door.
“I answered the door and saw the blue lights,” he said.
Bishop said he heard Schmidt yell, “Get down, get down,” to Lard before Lard was shot.
David Dickerson, who lives next to Rebecca Bishop, said he was asleep until police knocked on his door shortly after midnight.
“I was horrified,” Dickerson said. “You don’t think of something like this happening in your front door.”
On Wednesday morning, Dickerson discovered a bullet hole in the side of his car just behind the right front fender.
“That ... slug tore a chunk out of it,” he said.
Tosh said police hope to move quickly in the investigation.
“There’s still work to be done,” he said. “We have numerous examinations to be conducted by the state police lab. Our intentions are to move quickly.”
Tosh said he didn’t anticipate charges against Elumbaugh or the other two passengers.
Tuesday’s shooting is the second time in 14 years that an officer has been fatally shot in the line of duty in Poinsett County. Deputy Sheriff Jim Harper was killed during an April 23, 1997, traffic stop on Arkansas 75 near Marked Tree.
Also, former Trumann Police Chief Larry Blagg was killed on Jan. 27, 2009, when he was struck by a falling limb during an ice storm.
“It’s always quiet here,” Kevin Bishop said of the Cottonwood Manor Apartments. “I like this area. This is a fluke. This shouldn’t have happened here.” Information for this article was contributed by Jeannie Nuss of The Associated Press.
Arkansas, Pages 9 on 04/14/2011
Print Headline: Trumann police officer shot, killed