Man convicted of killing Columbus SWAT officer; eligible for death penalty

Published:
Updated:

A Franklin County jury has convicted Lincoln Rutledge of aggravated murder for the death of Columbus Police SWAT officer Steve Smith in April 2016.

The jury’s unanimous decision means Rutledge is now eligible for the death penalty.

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.

The defense argued Rutledge was ‘blind firing,’ but prosecutors told the jury Smith was leaning outside the hatch of the armored car, with half of his face peeking out when Rutledge fired an estimated five shots.

Smith was shot once in the head and died two days later.

Prosecutors said Smith never fired his weapon, and told the jury that suggested he was struck and killed by one of the first bullets fired from Rutledge’s handgun.

The defense asked the jury to find Rutledge guilty of the lesser charge of murder, arguing the defendant’s apartment was dark, he was blinded by spotlights from the armored vehicle and disoriented by gas canisters.

In closing arguments, Franklin County Assistant Prosecutor, Dan Hogan, told the jury “there’s prior calculation and design all over this (case).”

The trial will now move into the sentencing phase, which begins Monday at 9 a.m.

Rutledge’s defense team has argued he suffers mental issues that impacted his intentions during the more than nine-hour standoff.