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Witnesses: Slain Ark. Officer Rescued Partner

Witnesses: Slain Ark. Officer Rescued Partner

This frame grab from video courtesy of KAIT8-TV shows Trumann officer Jonathan Schmidt in June 2010, in Trumann, Ark. Trumann Police Chief Tony Rusher said the 30-year-old officer was shot and killed during a traffic stop Tuesday, April 12, 2011, and that

Associated Press

April 13, 2011

A man suspected of fatally shooting an Arkansas policeman during a traffic stop sounded like he was reciting a prayer as the young officer approached his car door, a witness who was in the car told The Associated Press.

“Tonight’s the night. Tonight’s the night,” April Swanner recalled the suspected gunman Jerry Lard saying.

Swanner didn’t know what her friend meant until the car door clicked and Lard lunged toward Officer Jonathan Schmidt, shooting him in the neck.

Investigators have named Lard, 37, of Trumann, as the gunman in the Tuesday night shooting. He was under police guard at a hospital recovering from unspecified wounds. Formal charges hadn’t been filed late Wednesday.

But before the 30-year-old Schmidt died, he managed to shove his sergeant out of harm’s way, said Swanner, who was one of three other people in the car that Schmidt pulled over after a quick license plate check showed the car might not have insurance.

“Jonathan Schmidt is a hero,” said Swanner, 30, who went to school with the fallen officer. “He was down and wounded and still picked the other cop up to help.”

It’s not clear what drove Lard, 37, to shoot at Schmidt and Sgt. Corey Overstreet. Schmidt was patrolling the Delta community of some 7,000 people Tuesday night and pulled over Keith Elumbaugh, 33, of Trumann, authorities said. Overstreet arrived a few minutes later.

Elumbaugh told the AP that, during the traffic stop, he was handcuffed and told he was being held for failing to appear on a misdemeanor warrant. The accusation: he violated the town’s leash law with his ex-girlfriend’s dog, a Jack Russell terrier and Chihuahua mix named Rascal.

Elumbaugh said Schmidt was smiling and joking with the people in the car – after mispronouncing Elumbaugh’s name.

“I’m under arrest and I’m sitting there laughing with the guy,” Elumbaugh said.

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