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The Bardstown Police officer who was killed early Saturday morning on the Blue Grass Parkway exit ramp at Bloomfield Road (Ky. 55) was apparently ambushed by someone with a 12-gauge shotgun, according to Nelson County Coroner Field Houghlin.
Houghlin said Sunday that Officer Jason Ellis died of wounds from multiple shotgun blasts, and later in the day, Norman Chaffins, a spokesman for the Kentucky State Police confirmed Houghlin's version of events but said police don't want to release many details because to do so might hinder the investigation.
Ellis, 33, of Chaplin, was shot sometime after 2 a.m. Saturday morning. He had just finished his shift, and police believe he was on his way home from work when the shooting occurred.
The city's K-9 officer, Ellis was in uniform and was found lying outside the police car he was driving. His dog was not with him. The car's blue emergency strobes were flashing, but central dispatch received no radio communication from him.
At a press conference at 9:15 a.m. Saturday, Bardstown Police Chief Rick McCubbin said a woman called dispatch at 2:40 a.m. to report that an officer had been shot. (Later the state police reported the call came in at 2:53.)
Ellis had been driving an older “pool car” that was kept at the police station for officers to use, rather than his own assigned SUV, because it was in the shop, McCubbin said, “so we have no video, no audio, nothing.”
“We assume perhaps there was some obstruction in the roadway that he had stopped to clear,” McCubbin said.
At the time of the press conference, the chief said there were no suspects.
The only witnesses, the chief said, were people who saw the car with its lights on and, after a few minutes of seeing no activity, they got out of their vehicles to see what was happening.
McCubbin said there was nothing suspicious about the witnesses, who lived in the area and were also on their way home.
“It’s a very sad day for us,” McCubbin said. “This is the first police officer in the history of the Bardstown Police Department to be shot and killed in the line of duty, and our police department dates back well over a hundred and fifty years,” he said.
According to a KSP press release emailed to the Standard this morning, Trooper Mike Garyantes arrived on the scene at 3:16 a.m. and found that the incident was not a fatal car crash, as it had earlier been reported, but a shooting.
Part of the Blue Grass Parkway was closed down for several hours while police investigated the crime scene.
During the press conference, McCubbin said Bardstown police officers are assisting the state police. He said they would do everything in their power to bring whoever committed the crime to justice.
“I can assure you, we won’t give up on this person or persons until we have them either in our custody, or in the front sight of one of our weapons, and I personally hope the latter is the choice,” the chief said.
Ellis was a seven-year veteran of the police force, the city’s only canine officer and one of its field training officers.
Ellis is survived by his wife Amy and two sons, ages 6 and 7. A native of Cincinnati, he graduated from Glen Este High School there in 1998. He played baseball for Cumberland College, now the University of the Cumberlands, in Williamsburg, Ky., and the minor league Billings Mustangs in Montana. He was a youth sports coach in Nelson County.
According to The Courier-Journal, before 11 a.m. Saturday, a motorcade of about 50 cars escorted the officer’s body to the medical examiner’s office in Louisville, and some officers wept as Ellis’ body, covered in an American flag, was taken into the building.
McCubbin kept his composure during the press conference, but was obviously shaken by what had happened.
“I’ve been a cop 25 years. Unfortunately, there’s not much I haven’t seen or been a part of, but that’s a phone call … I’d hoped and prayed I’d never get as a chief,” he said.
“It’s basically a large family here,” McCubbin said. “A lot of these officers have worked together for twenty years, so as you can imagine, they’re very close. They know each other well. They know each others’ families. They know each others’ children.”
The police chief was accompanied at the press conference by Mayor Bill Sheckles and Maj. Ray Lewis of the Bardstown Police, but neither spoke during the conference. Sheckles was expected to give a press conference Tuesday at 5 p.m
Later, Lewis said he had worked with Ellis for several years and that they were friends.
Sheckles said he had gone with others to visit Ellis’ family while the investigation was under way that morning. The mayor said Nathan Phillips, a Bardstown Police officer, is Ellis' brother-in-law, and that Ellis has "extended family" in the area.
The mayor said police officers have been involved in accidents before, but “as for a random act of violence committed against one of our officers, this has never happened” until now.
About 6 p.m. Saturday, a procession of police cars, ambulances and fire trucks coming from I-65 and Ky. 245 arrived at Barlow Funeral Home and formed an honorary cortege outside after Ellis' body arrived.
Ellis' funeral will be Thursday at Parkway Baptist Church.
Reporter Jennifer Corbett and Editor Forrest Berkshire contributed to this report.