Suspected officer shooter appears in court, judge includes rape charge

Officer Jonathan Schmidt
Officer Jonathan Schmidt
Jerry Lard
Jerry Lard

By Josh Harvison - bio | email

HARRISBURG, AR (KAIT) – Jerry Lard, 37, Trumann, appeared in Poinsett County Circuit Court Wednesday for a probable cause hearing in connection to the shooting death of Jonathan Schmidt. Circuit Judge Lee Fergus with the 2nd Judicial Circuit read the charges against Lard, as he sat silently in a wheel chair guarded by police. Fergus said the court had reason to believe Lard committed capital murder, attempted capital murder, felon in possession of a firearm and possession of a controlled substance (methamphetamine) against the State of Arkansas.

"We will be filing capital murder charges," said Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ellington. "We have the range of punishment that's allowed for capital murder and as the case progresses, then we'll make a final determination."

Ellington told Region 8 News it's too early to decide what type of punishment the prosecution will seek in connection to the murder case. Judge Fergus also told Lard the court had reason to believe he committed rape.

According to Poinsett County Sheriff Larry Mills, Lard had been under investigation for the rape of a 14-year old girl; however, he would not elaborate on the details. Mills said the bench warrant for rape was signed March 1, 2011.

"I can't tell you what Mr. Lard knew. I can't tell you what was going through his mind. I can tell you that there was a rape charge that a warrant had been issued on," said Ellington.

Lard will appear in court Friday, April 29th in front of 2nd Judicial Circuit Judge Barbara Halsey inside the Poinsett County Jail courtroom.

Lard was released from a Jonesboro hospital Wednesday morning before the hearing.

"The (Arkansas) State Police have interviewed so many individuals, witnesses of the incident and parts of the incident, so we don't know exactly when we'll get a final file from them," said Ellington.

Bill Howard, who acted as Lard's public defender Wednesday, told the court Jackie Wright and Teri Chambers will represent Lard during the murder case. Ellington asked the court to hold Lard with no bond.

"At this time, I know of no other person that will be charged in this case that was in the vehicle," said Ellington of the three other individuals inside the car before the shooting.

"We know that there are built in delays and we're told that since there are public defenders coming from Little Rock to defend this case, there will be many motions made on the defendants behalf," said Ellington. "We want to not drag this case out and prolong it for the grieving family, the grieving officers, the grieving people of Trumann and all officers."

After the hearing, Lard had nothing to say about his hospital visit or the charges to be filed against him. Lard was wounded in the shootout.

"I believe that once the video is viewed by the fact finder, then it'll be clear as to the motive of the individual who shot Officer Schmidt," said Ellington.

According to the affidavit, Lard is accused of shooting and killing Schmidt with a late Tuesday night, April 12, 2011. The affidavit states Schmidt initially made contact with the driver of a silver Hyundai Sonata at the entrance to Cottonwood Manor Apartments in Trumann. When Brian Elumbaugh, the driver, got out of his vehicle, he was handcuffed for a misdemeanor warrant.

Sergeant Corey Overstreet came to assist Schmidt during the traffic stop. Both in-car cameras were activated.

After Schmidt asked a female passenger to exit the vehicle, he learned Lard was wanted on a warrant. According to the affidavit, an investigator was told Lard said repeatedly before getting out of the car, "Today is the day."

Court documents suggest when Schmidt opened the car, Lard got out with a gun in his right hand and shot Schmidt at close range in the face.

Further into the court documents, surveillance video from Schmidt's car is said to have shown Lard pointing his weapon at Overstreet, and both exchanged gunfire. The video also is said to show Schmidt slumping near the right bumper of his patrol car. Documents suggest additional gunshots could be heard on the video.

Schmidt was pronounced dead at NEA Baptist Memorial Hospital in Jonesboro with several gunshot wounds.

Police said Schmidt died less than two hours after the shooting.

According to court documents, Lard was charged with felony burglary and sentenced April 14, 1993 in Craighead County Circuit Court.

Copyright 2011 KAIT. All rights reserved.