COLUMBUS (WCMH) — A jury has found Lincoln Rutledge guilty of aggravated murder with death penalty specifications. Rutledge barricaded himself inside his Clintonville apartment last April when Columbus SWAT officers arrived to arrest him for setting fire to the home of his estranged wife.
Testimony during the trial revealed that Rutledge threatened deadly force against the officers and taunted them to come and get him. He fired multiple rounds from a nine millimeter handgun including the shot that struck and killed SWAT officer Steve Smith.
The jury found Rutledge guilty on 2 counts of aggravated murder, 1 count of aggravated arson, 2 counts of attempted murder and 4 counts of felonious assault. The jury returned not guilty verdicts on 2 additional charges of attempted murder.
The jury began deliberating Tuesday afternoon after five days of testimony.
The jurors will return on Monday to begin the death penalty phase of the trial. That is expected to include evidence regarding Rutledge’s mental health at the time of the shooting. Defense attorney Jeff Liston has indicated he plans to call a number of witnesses.
When Rutledge refused to surrender, he told officers he was “invoking the Castle doctrine” which allows a homeowner to use deadly force when their life is threatened by someone on their property illegally. Officers had a signed warrant for his arrest and explained that the doctrine did not apply.
Officer Smith was standing up inside an armored vehicle outside the apartment. A fellow officer testified that Smith was leaning to the left side of the vehicle turret when he was struck by a bullet just above his left eye.
Several SWAT officers were called to testify during the trial including Tim O’Donnell.
“It was tough for all the SWAT guys to do it but you know what – we’re all veterans,” O’Donnell said. “We’ve all been on the department a long time. You know the issues when you take that stand. You’ve got a job to do and you do it.”