TRUMANN, AR (KAIT) – Two police officers were honored for their service Monday night at the Trumann City Council meeting. The Chapter 708 Military Order of the Purple Heart presented a memorial plaque to the family of fallen police officer Jonathan Schmidt, who was killed April 12. Sgt. Corey Overstreet was also awarded with an honorary certificate. Overstreet was out of town and not able to personally receive the honor. Police Chief Tony Rusher accepted on Overstreet's behalf.
Police accuse Jerry Lard of shooting Schmidt in the face as he was about to pull him out of a car during a traffic stop. Schmidt was pronounced dead hours later at NEA Baptist Memorial Hospital.
"They put on a uniform. They got to work every day. They put their life on the line, and like the combat soldiers who put their uniform on and go into combat knowing that there's always a possibility of getting killed or wounded," said Everett Evans, Adjutant for the MOPH. "This is called our First Responder Program. It's a national program with the national Military Order of the Purple Heart. It involves honoring policemen and firemen who are wounded or killed in the line of duty."
Region 8 News talked to Donald Schmidt, Jonathan's father, after the awards ceremony. He said it has been very difficult on his family since the shooting.
"The presentation was wonderful. The community support has been so overwhelming. It's beyond imagination," said Schmidt. "It's just amazing. A couple of Thursdays ago, we went to Hot Springs, and the Arkansas Criminal Justice Association presented an award for Jonathan for his being murdered. I want everybody to know my son was murdered."
Schmidt said he's thankful for the support of Region 8 and the surrounding areas. The wife and mother of Jonathan Schmidt talked to Region 8 News off camera, and expressed their thankfulness as well.
"He loved to hunt and fish with his children. He loved to coach softball with his daughter and coach baseball with his son," said Schmidt. "Keep praying. That's the only thing we can do. We know we're going to see our son again. We know that, in heaven."
Evans said the MOPH presents memorial plaques to fallen first responders if the family accepts their gift. He said all first responders are part of the program.
"Since they're not in the military, they cannot be given a Purple Heart. So the Military Order of the Purple Heart established this program to honor the fallen heroes of the community," said Evans. "What the policemen do for the community is the same the soldiers do for the country."
"Not just policemen, but for firemen. Firemen who go out and get killed in the line of duty. We have the same program. If they're killed, we try to present them a memorial plaque. If a policeman or fireman is wounded during the line of duty, then it's a real nice certificate," said Evans.
"Being an ex-police officer here in Jonesboro as a reserve officer, I knew that the men could expect that at any time because any time you stop someone, you never know what's going to happen," said Jerry Crump, Commander of the 708. "You do put yourself on the line to protect the people of our nation, in this country, or the city in which you're serving. In the military, it's the nation."
Evans said he was angry when he learned of Schmidt's death.
"These young men are doing exactly the same thing for their community. They're protecting their community and to be cut down like that, it's senseless," said Evans. "It makes me mad when I come back to the country that I fought for in a relatively safe environment to see a young man gunned down for no apparent reason like that."
Schmidt said Jonathan would do the same job he did before his death if given the chance.
"My son loved his job and he loved this community. We worked together at Nucor Steel and when Jonathan told me he wanted to leave there to join the police force, I said, hey. If that's what you want to do son, go for it," said Schmidt.
Schmidt said he woke up early on April 12 when two Poinsett County Sheriff's Deputies knocked on the door. He said he knew something was wrong.
"We thought it was Jonathan, that he had a bad night, or needed some medicine for a sick stomach or something. Kathy got up and ran to the door, and there were two Poinsett County officers there. The officer looked at me and dropped his head, and said, Mr. Schmidt. Your son has been shot," said Schmidt.
"It turns your world upside down. The things you used to care about don't matter anymore," said Schmidt. "It's a sad picture when you see your son laying on a table with a head block under his head and knowing that he's not breathing anymore."
"I hope God grants him (Lard) mercy, and I hope he finds faith in Jesus Christ, but he's going to pay for what he did," said Schmidt.