COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Several more SWAT officers testified Thursday afternoon in the death penalty case of a man accused of killing a Columbus police officer.
It was April of last year when police went to Lincoln Rutledge’s Clintonville apartment to arrest him for allegedly setting his estranged wife’s home on fire. Rutledge would not come out and police said he fired more than a dozen shots.
SWAT officer Steven Smith was shot in the head and died from his wound days later in the hospital.
Another SWAT officer was also hit by gunfire in the West California Ave apartment complex as he tried to isolate the shooter.
SWAT Officer Troy Palmer and Officer Dennis Prestel were in Rutledge’s basement shutting off the gas and electric service when debris started falling from the ceiling.
“Did you guys hear that, yeah he just shot at us when we turned the power off,” Palmer said.
Palmer held up his bulletproof vest for the jury. AS he was cleaning it the next day, he found out how close five bullets fired through the ceiling came to him.
“I noticed that there were two areas that were frayed and then I knew what it was. “What was it?” asked Assistant Franklin County Prosecutor Dan Hogan. “My equipment had been struck by a bullet when I was underneath that electrical panel,” Palmer said.
A picture shown in the courtroom showed a fiberglass rod through the path of the bullet in Palmer’s vest.
SWAT Officer John Holloway was covering the apartment from the rear, peeking out from the back of the armored vehicle when he said he heard shot hit the vehicle.
“As he is standing up I hear a volley of shots then Officer Smith falls straight down,” Officer Holloway said.
In SWAT radio traffic played for the jurors, Holloway can be heard yelling ‘officer down,’ and he told jurors he continued to cover the rear of the apartment.
“I am covering the window and Officer Thiverner gets Smith out,” Holloway said.
He is asked by Assistant Prosecutor Warren Edwards, “despite you colleague lying next to you, you continued to do your job? Yes!” Holloway replied.
Jurors were shown pictures of Bearcat 2 after Officer Smith had been transported, along with his rifle. Other pictures of evidence included bullet marks on the front of the armored car and the turret where Officer Smith was standing.
More than a dozen other prosecution witnesses are expected to testify over the next several weekdays.