Suspect in Ark. police shooting resisted arrest

AP News
Posted: Apr 15, 2011 12:35 PM
Suspect in Ark. police shooting resisted arrest

A man accused of fatally shooting a police officer during a traffic stop in northeast Arkansas was convicted of resisting arrest and disorderly conduct after he allegedly punched another officer in the jaw more than seven years ago, court records show.

Tony Rusher, now the police chief in Trumann, said 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 document that incident and court filings show that Lard was convicted of resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. Lard was found not guilty of battery on a police officer and obstructing governmental operations.

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

Lard has not been formally charged in the shooting, but he remained hospitalized under police guard. Lard's family declined to comment.

Records 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. No one pressed charges in that case. Since then, in this Delta community of some 7,000, Lard has been jailed for other allegations including failing to appear in court, 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. 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.

On Tuesday, Lard was riding with three friends when Schmidt pulled over the car in front an apartment complex, witnesses told The Associated Press. 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.