Fatal Shooting of Arkansas Officer Used to Teach Lessons

PHOTO: The Trumann Police Department in Arkansas is using the video of an officer being shot to death during a traffic stop as a learning tool for its officers.
Share
Copy

In life, Officer Jonathan Schmidt was a respected member of the Trumann police force in Arkansas. However, one year after his death, he may be its greatest instructor.

Schmidt was shot to death during a seemingly routine traffic stop on the evening of April 12, 2011.

The 20-minute video of the stop, captured on a dashboard camera, will be used to teach police recruits and also make changes to existing procedures, said Chad Henson, police chief of the Trumann Police Department.

That begins with banishing the word "routine."

"The verbiage of using routine has to be taken out of all law enforcement's mouth," Henson said. "It could be grandma needs direction to church or a murderer in the backseat who hasn't unveiled himself."

Henson said he plans to conduct training, which is often done in daylight, at night and in other variable conditions, to help officers be prepared.

Police officers already on the force will receive ongoing training, Henson said.

The scene on the dash-camera video would likely look familiar to most officers before it took a turn for the worst.

Schmidt, who had been an officer for four years, pulled over a vehicle after a license plate check showed it may not have insurance.

After he handcuffed the driver of the car outside the vehicle on an outstanding warrant, Schmidt asked the man sitting in the back seat of the pulled-over car his name.

Moments later, Henson said, the dispatcher told him the man in the backseat, Jerry Lard, was wanted on a felony warrant.

"When he went to retrieve him, Officer Schmidt opened the door with his weapon hand and instantly [Lard] shot him in the face," Henson said.

Lard exited the pulled-over car and kept firing at Schmidt and Officer Corey Overstreet.

"What you got?" Lard can be heard yelling on the video as he continued to shoot at the officers.

Henson said the video "raises hundreds of questions" that his department, and hopefully others, will address.

"Officer Schmidt was carrying a very heavy flashlight and he switched it from hand to hand. We are going to give these guys a lighter flashlight to keep in their non weapon hand," he said.

Schmidt dropped his gun after he was shot through his weapon hand, Henson said, underscoring the need to equip officers with back-up weapons.

In the final few seconds of a dash-cam video, Officer Schmidt pleaded for the gunman to stop shooting him.

"We've got help coming, buddy," Overstreet told Schmidt.

Lard, who was wounded in the shootout, was sentenced to death last month following a capital murder conviction.

Eight minutes and 10 seconds of the video were shown to the jury that convicted Lard.

Henson, who trained Schmidt in the police academy and took the police chief job after his death, said he was a top recruit.

"He could have been No. 1 on the state police hiring list or the FBI hiring list," he said. "He was that go-to guy. He was the poster child for a great cop."

Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...