POINSETT COUNTY (KAIT) – During a press conference held by the Arkansas State Police and Truman Police Departments, Arkansas State Police Public Information Officer Bill Sadler revealed that Officer Jonathan Schmidt and Officer Corey Overstreet were investigating the stopped vehicle because it was not insured. After the driver and one of the rear seat passengers were removed from the car, Sadler said 37-year-old Jerry Lard opened fire on the two officers killing Schmidt.
Trumann Police Chief Tony Rusher said four people were in the 2002 Hyundai Sonota driven by Brian Keith Elumbaugh when it was pulled over. Three out of the four had warrants for their arrest. Rusher says approximately 15 shots were fired between the suspect and the two officers. Rusher also said both officers were wearing new protective gear at the time of the shooting.
"Officer Schmidt was removing an occupant from the vehicle, placed them in custody for a warrant. They had a local warrant," said Rusher. "He did a great job. He was doing his job and doing it the right way and it's just something that no one could stop."
According to Arkansas State Police Lieutenant Brant Tosh, no arrests have officially been made and the investigation is still in its early stages; Lard is the only suspect in this case. Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ellington said he did not know what charges will be filed against Lard once he is arrested.
"There's not any other suspects that we're interested in in connection to this murder," said Tosh.
Tosh also stated that patrol car cameras were rolling during the shooting and the video from those cameras were a critical piece of information in the investigation. Tosh declined to comment on what was on the tapes, and would not say whether those tapes would be released to the public.
According to Chief Rusher, 30-year-old Schmidt was killed in front of the Cottonwood Manor Apartments at 300 Pine Avenue around 11:30 p.m. Schmidt and Overstreet stopped a vehicle at 11:27 p.m. and were walking toward it when Schmidt was shot.
Schmidt was taken to the NEA Baptist Hospital where he was pronounced dead less than two hours later. Tosh said Officer Overstreet was not injured during the open fire, but was taken to a nearby hospital to be examined along with the suspect who remains at the medical facility.
"There was nothing he could have done to stop this," said Rusher. "Anytime it's a shooting involving our officers, it's departmental policy Arkansas State Police, it's turned over to them. They investigate it and they took over the crime scene once it was secure."
"We have video from both officers cars at the scene. I can't get into details on it. I can tell you that the officer. He did everything that he was trained to do," said Rusher.
Schmidt was married and was the father of three children. He had been on the police force since 2007, and was recently commended in May 2010 for saving the life of a 1-year-old child by performing CPR. After Schmidt's act of heroism, Rusher had all officers on the task force receive a refresher course on CPR training.
"He was very much into his job and very good officer. It's a great loss," Chief Rusher said of the four-year veteran officer. With a shaking voice Rusher requested that prayers be sent out for the wife and children of Schmidt.
John Thompson with the Thompson Funeral Home says no funeral arrangements have been made and will be made once the body is released from the medical examiner's office.
A fundraiser will be held for the Schmidt family on Monday, April 18 from 6 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. The Police Benevolent Foundation, Inc. and the Arkansas Division of the Southern States PBA will also be accepting donations for the "Jonathan Schmidt Memorial Fund."
Brandi Hodges is curretly speaking with witnesses, and Josh Harvison is getting more details from Chief Rusher. We will bring you updates as they become available on www.kait8.com, region8togo.com, and tonight on Region 8 News at 5, 6, and 10.