COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A man charged with shooting a Columbus SWAT officer early Sunday morning at a Clintonville apartment building was wanted on a felony arson warrant, accused of setting fire to his ex-girlfriend's house a day earlier.
Lincoln S. Rutledge, 44, is accused of firing at officers at about 2:30 a.m. during a standoff that began about three hours earlier at 14 W. California Ave., his apartment in a six-unit building just west of N. High St. He surrendered nearly five hours after the shooting, but not before the apartment building caught fire, causing extensive damage.
Police have not released the name of the veteran officer, who was in critical but stable condition following surgery at Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center.
"Our officer is in very critical condition, and we won't know what happens to him for some time," Police Chief Kim Jacobs said. "It is very serious, and we need everyone to pray for him."
She would not discuss his injuries, calling that "private medical information." Although family members were with him at the hospital, Jacobs said the name was being withheld until other members of his family are notified.
"He's been on the division for many years, a couple decades," she said. "He's very highly respected, very highly trained, well-liked. He always had a smile on his face. People really loved to be around him and they're hoping to continue that for many years to come."
Rutledge, who surrendered nearly five hours after the shooting, was being treated at OSU Wexner for what appeared to be a gunshot wound and smoke inhalation, said Sgt. Rich Weiner, a police spokesman. His injures didn't appear "very serious at all," Jacobs said.
Rutledge was charged with arson for a fire he is accused of setting at a house in the 500 block of Fairlawn Drive in Clintonville on Saturday morning.
Neighbors said that Rutledge once lived at the house with his girlfriend but that they broke up sometime last fall. The woman who lives at the house was out of town when the fire broke out Saturday morning.
"I saw smoke billowing out of the roof line," said Franklin County Treasurer Ed Leonard, a neighbor. Firefighters quickly arrived and extinguished the fire. Most of the damage occurred at the back end of the house.
According to the warrant, surveillance video captured images of Rutledge's car backing into the driveway of the house and smoke coming from the residence as he left the scene.
Jacobs said SWAT officers were used to serve the warrant because Rutledge had exhibited "erratic behavior" and was known to have weapons, but Rutledge barricaded himself inside at 11:34 p.m.
About three hours after the barricade began, "SWAT tried to use their armored vehicle to approach the residence, and at the time they came under fire," she said. The shots came from a rear, first-floor window of the apartment.
The officer who was shot was sitting in an armored vehicle, Weiner said.
At least one officer returned fire, Jacobs said.
The wounded officer received immediate treatment from Fire Division medics who were at the scene.
SWAT officers "train with medic squads to be near the scene and to be ready to go in even under unstable conditions," she said. "We've worked together for many years and it really does save lives."
"We do barricades like this dozens of times a year," she said. "Our goal is everybody leaves a situation like that unharmed... We were using as many protective measures as we possibly could. And yet despite all of those protective measures, you cannot successfully deal with a situation like this without being vulnerable in some way."
Jake Sidorski, who lives in the apartment next door to Rutledge's, said police officers knocked on his door at about 11:15 p.m. asking if he knew his neighbor and warning him to stay away from the common wall between their units. He decided to leave his apartment to be with friends, and heard later that shots had been fired and the building was on fire.
"I expect everything I have to be gone," he said after police at the scene told him Sunday morning that the building was too unstable for him to enter the apartment where he has lived for eight or nine years.
Sidorski said he didn't know his next-door-neighbor, who had lived there less than a year. He was unaware of any problems involving the neighbor.
Jacobs said the incident reinforces the dangers of police work.
"It's difficult for me to understand why anybody would take on a police office, but I do know there are some very desperate people out there, some very dangerous people out there, and sometimes they choose to go out in a certain way and or take us on in a certain way... Right now, there are people who could care less about the authority of the police."
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