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Police Chief: Cop-Shooting Suspect Attacked Me in 2003

Police Chief: Cop-Shooting Suspect Attacked Me in 2003

AP Photo - A photo of Officer Jonathan Schmidt, right, hangs at the Trumann, Ark. police station Wednesday, April 13, 2011. Schmidt was shot and killed during a traffic stop in Trumann on Tuesday night.

Associated Press

April 15, 2011

TRUMANN, Ark. — The police chief of a northeast Arkansas town where an officer was fatally shot this week during a traffic stop told The Associated Press that the same man suspected in that shooting also attacked him more than seven years ago.

Tony Rusher, now the Trumann police chief, said in an interview Thursday that he was a patrolman in 2003 when Jerry Lard, 37, hit him in the jaw during a routine welfare check at Lard’s home.

“This guy literally attacked me in full uniform,” Rusher said.

Police records released to the AP document that incident, though it wasn’t immediately clear if Lard was convicted.

Authorities have identified Lard as the suspect of the fatal shooting Tuesday night of Trumann Officer Jonathan Schmidt in a late-night gun battle after Schmidt pulled over a car that a quick license plate check showed might not have insurance.

Lard had not been formally charged, but he remained hospitalized Thursday night under police guard. Lard’s family declined to comment.

The records released to AP also show Lard was arrested for domestic violence in 2000 after his then-wife told police that Lard hit her and took off with her son. Since then, in this Delta community of some 7,000, Lard has been jailed for other allegations ranging from failing to appear in court to domestic abuse, records show.

Some of Lard’s interactions with authorities and an interview with a family friend portrayed Lard as a man motivated by his family. He once called authorities to check on his grandmother and again when he said a dog bit his daughter.

Lard, an “almost spitting image” of rock star Axl Rose, lived for his five children, family friend Swanda Hardin said Thursday. But now, Hardin said she worried about his kids – and Schmidt’s three children.

“Eight babies are going to be raised without a daddy now,” Hardin said, referring to Lard’s five children and Schmidt’s three.


Jonathan Schmidt died in a hail of bullets trying to save his sergeant's life

On Tuesday, Lard was riding with three friends when Schmidt pulled over the car in front an apartment complex, witnesses told AP. Another officer arrived a few minutes later. Schmidt was smiling and joking with the driver, Keith Elumbaugh, as he arrested him for an unrelated warrant – an allegation that he violated the town’s leash law with his ex-girlfriend’s dog.

When Schmidt approached the rear passenger door where Lard was sitting, Lard lunged at him and shot him in the neck, according to Elumbaugh and April Swanner, who was also in the car. As Lard continued shooting, he cursed at Schmidt and told him to die, Elumbaugh and Swanner said.

Yet, even with an initial wound to his neck, Schmidt managed to shove his sergeant out of harm’s way. It was the last heroic act by an officer who was recently honored for saving the life of an infant.

After the gunfire stopped, Lard laid face-down on the ground while authorities had a body bag at the ready, said Lisa Carlson, 48, whose apartment was pierced by a stray bullet.

“For 45 minutes to an hour, they didn’t touch him,” Carlson said.

Eventually, officials rolled him over, shocked him as if to bring him back to life and handcuffed him, she said. Authorities declined to comment on his condition.

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