Evansville Police: Taser, verbal commands ineffective prior to fatal shooting

(WEHT Photo)

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WEHT) — An Evansville police officer and federal security officer issued numerous verbal commands and deployed a taser before fatally shooting a man outside the federal building in downtown Evansville Tuesday morning, police said. Ricky Ard, 55, was allegedly armed with a baseball bat and began breaking the front door windows prior to the shooting, according to police investigators.

Ard had been escorted out of the federal building the day before the shooting. It isn’t exactly clear what Ard was doing at the federal building that day, but police said that Ard wanted to express some “concerns about the federal government.”

On Tuesday morning, Ard returned to the federal building armed with a baseball bat. When federal court security officers tried to prevent Ard from entering the facility, he began to swing the bat and break the windows to the front doors, according to police.

“This individual arrived at the courthouse today, and his aggressive behavior was evident from the moment he arrived,” Evansville Police Sgt. Jason Cullum said. “One of the officers, the courthouse officer, was injured in this incident. He was on the other side of the door trying to prevent entry as the individual that was armed with the bat was trying to break the glass. That officer received facial injuries from the flying glass as the subject was trying to gain entry into the building.”

A few moments later, Evansville police officer Kenny Dutschke responded to the scene to assist the federal security officer. According to police, the two law enforcement officers repeatedly tried to use verbal commands in order to de-escalate the situation. The city police officer then deployed his taser but it was ineffective.

According to online court records, Ard weighs over 300 lbs. However, it is unclear if Ard’s size played a factor in the taser being ineffective.

“The taser did not stop the man’s aggressive behavior. Under Indiana law, if you believe that you are in immediate danger of serious bodily injury and or death, you are allowed to use deadly force,” Sgt. Cullum said.

After the taser was reportedly ineffective, Ard continued to act aggressively toward the officers. Several witnesses to the incident tell Eyewitness News that Ard was running or lunging toward the two officers prior to the shooting.

“If you get hit in the head with the same velocity that he was hitting those glass doors, it is going to cause serious bodily injury and or death,” Sgt. Cullum said. “This wasn’t vandalism; this was an individual trying to make entry into the courthouse by violent means. A baseball bat is a toy when you go to a little league game. When you show up at a federal courthouse and you start breaking out windows of the door and injuring federal security officers, you are not using it as a kids toy. You are using that as an impact weapon that is designed by your own intent to inflict serious bodily injury and or death.”

It is unclear how many times Ard was shot, but both police officers fired their weapons. Witnesses described hearing as many as five shots. Police also reported finding a knife at the scene, in addition to the wooden baseball bat and the officer’s taser.

Ard’s body lay outside the federal building for close to an hour while crime scene technicians processed the scene. About a half hour after the shooting happened, officers placed a cloth barrier around Ard’s body in order to shield it from public view.

“We have a duty to preserve the scene as it is when it happens,” Sgt. Cullum said. “I know a lot of people expect a sheet to be placed over the deceased because that’s what they have seen on television. Sometimes it is appropriate at a scene like this, but the first thing we need to do is document the scene.”

Some people at the scene on Tuesday morning expressed concern, alleging the officer-involved shooting was in some way racially-motivated. Sgt. Cullum vehemently refuted those claims. This is the first fatal police shooting of an African American in Evansville since 1975.

“Race doesn’t play a role in this. Race has nothing to do with this gentleman arriving at the federal courthouse today with a bat,” Sgt. Cullum said. “Race has nothing to do with the damage that he caused through his violent behavior. Race has nothing to do with the injuries to the officer. It also has nothing to do with the officer’s decision to protect themselves against an imminent threat of serious bodily injury.”

Officer Dutschke has been placed on paid administrative leave while the investigation continues, which is standard operating procedure in any police action shooting. The names of the other officer has not been released yet.

The Evansville Police Department is leading the investigation.