COLUMBUS (WCMH) — The man accused of shooting a Columbus Police SWAT officer had recently resigned from his job at The Ohio State University, a university spokesperson said Monday.
In a statement, a spokesperson said the standoff that led to the officer being shot was a “heartbreaking situation.” The statement noted that Lincoln Rutledge was employed at Ohio State from Dec. 26, 2012, until April 3, 2016, when he resigned.
“He had been on leave from the university and had not been at work since February 1, 2016, when he requested and was granted leave. His I.T. and building access were revoked on March 23, 2016, when he began to behave erratically while on leave. This information was shared with the Columbus police at that time. Ohio State arranged for wellness checks on Mr. Rutledge and strongly encouraged him to seek assistance through the Employee Assistance Program. Mr. Rutledge worked as an I.T. security engineer. We have no evidence that he tampered with Ohio State I.T. systems,” wrote Benjamin Johnson, director of media relations for the university.
Acting Ohio State University police chief Craig Stone says a co-worker went to Rutledge’s residence and saw that he was displaying “erratic behavior”.
“He assaulted a co-worker and chased him out the house,” says Stone.
Police documents dated March 22 and March 23 show that a co-worker and friend was concerned for Rutledge’s well-being because he had been absent from work and decided to visit him. During that visit, the police documents say “Rutledge may have been in the midst of a mental breakdown.”
The co-worker told police he saw weapons, including a loaded 9mm pistol and ammunition inside the home. He said later Rutledge got a hammer and began to swing at him.
“We took necessary steps to make the university community was safe,” Stone said.
That’s when Rutledge’s building and IT access was revoked on campus. Other police documents reveal Rutledge’s supervisor commenting on his “decline in his mental state”. He stated this seemed to have been triggered in the fall when his wife served him divorce papers.
His ex-wife told police she went to check on Rutledge as well and he came at her aggressively. She reported that Rutledge has some mental illnesses and may have stopped taking his medications months ago.
Officers attempted to do a well-being check in Columbus and Rutledge could not be found.
He was later located in Rolla, Missouri about two weeks ago.
“They noted that his behavior was OK, so they had no legal means to detain him,” Stone said.
OSU officials say they encouraged Rutledge to utilize the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) as a resource. An email thread, obtained from Rutledge’s personnel file, shows that Rutledge told OSU that he had been speaking with the EAP team.
As of Monday afternoon, police cruisers and crime scene tape still mark off one end of West California Avenue, near North High Street. The apartment building in which Rutledge, 44, barricaded himself Sunday morning is destroyed.
Less than one week after his resignation from Ohio State, Columbus Police said Rutledge purposely set fire to a house in the 500-l block of Fairlawn Drive on Saturday
When officers tried to serve him an arrest warrant for aggravated arson on West California Ave, Rutledge refused to come out. During that standoff, police say Rutledge shot Columbus Police SWAT officer Steven Smith, who remains in critical condition.
Rutledge is now charged with felonious assault in addition to aggravated arson.
Rutledge has no prior record in Franklin County, other than a minor misdemeanor for a traffic violation in 2003.
The Franklin County prosecutor has filed a motion asking for Rutledge to be held without bond in this case.
Police said he is still in the hospital and his injuries do not appear to be serious.
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