LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A man accused of killing a police officer during a traffic stop in northeast Arkansas appeared in court for the first time since the shooting on Wednesday and was ordered jailed without bond.
Jerry Lard, who had been hospitalized since the April 12 clash in which he’s accused of gunning down Trumann police Officer Jonathan Schmidt, sat silently in a wheelchair in the Poinsett County Jail courtroom while Judge Lee Fergus read the charges against him: capital murder, attempted capital murder, being a felon in possession of a firearm and possession of methamphetamine, a controlled substance. Lard also faces an unrelated rape charge.
Lard, 37, spoke up only once, to correct the judge when he mispronounced his name, which rhymes with “card.”
William Howard, a public defender who represented Lard during the hearing, didn’t immediately respond to phone messages left at his office Wednesday seeking comment.
Scott Ellington, the district prosecutor in charge of the case, said it’s too soon to say whether the state would seek the death penalty.
According to investigators, Schmidt pulled over a car in which Lard was a passenger on the night of the shooting and ran a license plate check that showed the car might not have insurance.
Schmidt talked to the driver, Keith Elumbaugh, who told The Associated Press he had a misdemeanor warrant after he missed a court date for allegedly violating the town’s leash law with his ex-girlfriend’s dog. Schmidt was smiling, joking with Elumbaugh even as he handcuffed him outside the car.
In the meantime, Sgt. Corey Overstreet arrived. Schmidt learned that there was a warrant out for Lard’s arrest and approached the rear passenger door where he was sitting.
Lard kept repeating, “Today is the day,” according to a witness account in the police affidavit.
As Schmidt opened the door, Lard got out of the car and shot Schmidt at close range, hitting him in the face, according to the affidavit. Schmidt backed up and Lard turned and started firing at Overstreet, the other officer, but did not injure him.
Elumbaugh and another witness in the car told the AP that while wounded, Schmidt managed to shove his sergeant to safety.
At some point, Schmidt slumped near the right front fender of his patrol car, where he was later found with multiple gunshot wounds, according to the affidavit. He was pronounced dead at a hospital in nearby Jonesboro sometime after midnight.
Lard was wounded in the shootout and had been hospitalized under police guard until Wednesday’s court appearance. He’s due back in court April 29.