A man accused of killing a Columbus Police SWAT officer will face the death penalty, Franklin County Prosecuting Attorney Ron O’Brien said Tuesday.
A grand jury indicted Lincoln Rutledge, 44, on 11 counts, with death-penalty specifications, in the shooting death of Officer Steven Smith on April 10. Smith died of his injuries April 12.
The charges include two counts of aggravated murder stemming from Smith’s death and a charge of aggravated arson in a fire set at his estranged wife’s Clintonville home. Rutledge was also indicted on four counts each of attempted murder and felonious assault because authorities say he attempted to kill three other officers.
“A law enforcement officer in the course of duty is the most serious kind of homicide there can be committed because they’re out there trying to protect the rest of us on a daily basis,” O’Brien said.
Smith, a 27 year police veteran, was shot in the head during a standoff at an apartment on California Ave. SWAT officers were trying to serve a warrant on Rutledge related to the arson investigation.
Though Smith was the only officer killed in the confrontation, another officer was nearly hit when Smith fired shots into the floor at officers in the basement, O’Brien said. A bullet went through an officer’s clothing and gear, but did not injure him, O’Brien added.
According to Ohio law, the death penalty can be sought in murder cases when the victim is a police officer.
“I think that speaks to their special status in society as the protectors of the public,” O’B rien said.
The prosecutor’s office sought the death penalty because Rutledge’s attempt to harm the officers who were trying to apprehend him and because of his attempted escape, O’Brien said.
The last time the prosecutor’s office sought the death penalty was in the case of Wendell Callahan, who is charged with stabbing his ex-girlfriend and two of her children on Jan. 12.
Rutledge’s arraignment is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Friday in Common Pleas courtroom 6E before Judge Mark Serrott.