SWAT officers testify during day 3 of Rutledge trial

Lincoln Rutledge

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Columbus police SWAT officers testified about the night they carried on during a barricade situation, even after one of their fellow officers had been shot.

Police were trying to arrest Lincoln Rutledge for an arson at his then estranged wife’s home when they said he started firing shots at them in his Clintonville apartment.

He is charged with two counts of aggravated murder in the shooting death of SWAT officer Steven Smith in April of 2016.

A SWAT officer testified they broke down the front door at 14 West California Ave., announced themselves, and heard shouts back from Lincoln Rutledge from inside the apartment.

“He said go away I’m not coming out,” said SWAT Officer Tim O’Donnell.

Then he said there were gun shots fired towards his breeching team.

Officer O’Donnell said he and another SWAT officer being fired on, discussed what to do next.

“What were you going to do? Asked Warren Edwards with the Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office. “Shoot him,” replied O’Donnell.

O’Donnell said Rutledge was reaching around the bedroom wall firing at them. Another SWAT team at the rear of the building fired tear gas into the home; O’Donnell said no one came out. Hours later after Officer Smith had been shot in the police armored vehicle, an explosive device was placed on the glass block wall of Rutledge’s bathroom after he was spotted in the bathtub.

“You count down from 5, it was quite loud, but it is controlled and measured, and it does its job,” he said.

O’Donnell said Rutledge stood up from the tub.

“Was there a weapon in his hand, no? His hands are up in the air, we ordered him to come to the window, and a team goes up to get him and he pulled out of the window and placed on the ground,” O’Donnell said.

Police said Rutledge shot two different robots deployed in the apartment, destroying both.

O’Donnell said he and his team were eventually staged in Nancy’s Diner, which backdoor faces Rutledge’s apartment. He said the force of the explosion jammed the back door of Nancy’s for a short time. They were able to force the door open and made the arrest of Rutledge who no longer had a handgun in his possession.

Two SWAT officers, one who busted down the front door, the other in the police armored vehicle talked about Officer Steven Smith before and after he was shot and how they kept on working to get Rutledge out of his apartment.

SWAT officers said they are like brothers and have each other’s backs in life and death.

“I heard two or three shots and I heard guys screaming on the radio to get to their safe spots,” said Officer Charles Distelhorst, with Columbus police SWAT.

He said he knew it had to be serious.

Assistant Franklin County Prosecutor Dan Hogan asked Distelhorst “did you remember at that time how serious Officer Smith was hurt? Yes,” Distelhorst replied.

SWAT Officer Distelhorst said after battering open the door, he talked with Rutledge in several conversations from behind a bullet-proof shield.

“He tried to explain to me I was wrong because I came in his home,” Distelhorst said.

After Officer Smith was shot he said he ceased all conversation with Rutledge.

Officer Enoch “Skip” White told jurors he was in the armored car when Smith was hit in the head and shots continued to hit the bullet-proof glass in front of him.

“I remember Officer Holloway saying Steve’s hit and I couldn’t believe it when I heard officer down.” He tried to back the police vehicle up, but it was stuck in the mud. He and several officers exposed themselves to gunfire while Smith was carried out of the vehicle called a Bearcat.

“I kept waiting for him to run out of ammo which he never did and it was pretty clear that he was a very violent person,” Officer White said.

“Skip White said Rutledge was intentionally walking his shots up the Bearcat aiming for Steve Smith in the turret.

This is the third day of his trial.

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