Man convicted of killing Columbus SWAT officer gets life in prison

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The man convicted of killing a Columbus SWAT officer last year received life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Lincoln Rutledge will face formal sentencing July 18 when Officer Steven Smith's family will have an opportunity to speak in court.

Rutledge was facing the death penalty after the jury convicted him Thursday of the aggravated murder of Officer Smith and the attempted murder of two other SWAT Officers.

Prosecutors said SWAT officers were trying to arrest Rutledge for setting his estranged wife’s home on fire, but Rutledge refused to come out.

Officers testified Rutledge fired shots at four SWAT officers and shot Smith as he was standing in the turret of an armored car. Smith was shot once in the head and died two days later.

The jury deliberated for about seven hours before recommending their sentence. The jury couldn't reach a unanimous decision to send Rutledge to death row.

Rutledge had no reaction when the verdict was read. Outside the courtroom, Rutledge's father choked back tears as he talked about what it was like to plead with the jury to spare his son's life.

"It was the hardest thing I've ever done. But it's your son. And you do what you do...you do what you do for love," Keith Rutledge said.

For the first time, Rutledge's family publicly expressed their sorrow and regret for the officer's death.

"I'm so sorry for the Smith family that they lost a loved one, and I pray for them every day that they'll find some peace," cried Rutledge's sister, Molly Martin.

Smith's wife said she accepts the jury's decision. Columbus police officer John Holloway, who was there the night Officer Smith was shot, said SWAT is grateful the jury believed Rutledge intentionally shot at police and said the focus should remain on a fallen hero.

"I want people to remember that this is about Officer Smith and his family and the loss of a police officer that the city of Columbus had that day, so that's where the focus needs to be. As a personal friend to him, I miss him dearly every day," said Officer Holloway.

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