One year later: Looking back on the murder of Officer Jason Ellis
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- It’s been one year since the community of Bardstown suffered an unimaginable loss. 33-year-old Jason Ellis, a Bardstown Police Officer, was shot multiple times on the morning of May 25th.
He was on his way home from work and stopped to clear debris from the road on Exit Ramp 34 on The Bluegrass Parkway. Not long before, he had made his final call to dispatch to go off duty.
The next call dispatch received was a call that came through from his police radio.
“Hello! Hello! Officer down! Officer down! Bloomfield Road,” the caller told authorities.
“M’am, can you advise the status of the officer? Is he conscious,” a dispatcher later asked.
“I believe he’s dead,” the caller says.
As police officers are racing to get to the shooting location, the caller talks to dispatch once again.
“Oh my God. Are they coming? Are they coming?” she asks.
Soon after, there’s another voice on the radio. Another passerby calls dispatch from Ellis's radio.
“The police car is sitting in the middle of the road with the lights on and we didn’t know what it was. It’s a tree across the road. I didn't know what it was and I got out and I went up there and looked at him. I believe somebody’s hit him,” the man says.
“Okay, can you tell if he is breathing?” the dispatcher asks.
“No sir. He is not breathing. The body temperature is cold,” he replies.
We asked community members and police officers to recall the morning of the shooting.
“We heard the sirens all night going by our house and I thought they must have had a bad car wreck out on the Bluegrass,” said Buddy Gulden, the owner of the Mercantile, a Bardstown business.
“I remember it like it was yesterday. Most people involved will probably tell you the same thing. It was an awful morning,” said Lt. Jeremy Thompson with Kentucky State Police.
“It was almost unbelievable and you were hoping that wasn't true,” said Christy Clark, owner of Mammy’s Kitchen in Bardstown.
“I just kept thinking maybe he's just hurt badly. Maybe they're not telling me everything. There's still that hope,” said Chief Rick McCubbin with Bardstown Police.
“Then everybody's thoughts went, who would do that and why because there was just no reasoning at all,” said Christy Clark.
“It's not something I had ever been a part of from a perspective of a murder investigation,” said Lt. Thompson.
“We still have a cop killer on the street, a year later,” said Chief Rick McCubbin.
The ramp where Officer Ellis was killed is now covered in American flags and a cross, bearing the name and the police number of the fallen officer across the front. His photo remains in local Bardstown businesses.
“As long as there's a breath of life in me, he'll be remembered here,” said Buddy Gulden.
Last year, hundreds of police officers honored the fallen officer during his burial at Highview Cemetery. In a heartbreaking moment during the ceremony, Officer Ellis’s K9, Figo, touched his casket.
The cemetery now sits silent.
Ellis's headstone is decorated with the hand prints of his two sons and the sport of baseball, which he loved so much.
Following his death, his wife Amy spoke about his love for his job and called him her hero.
"He was a dedicated family man. He loved our family. He loved our boys. He loved me,” said Amy Ellis, days after Officer Jason Ellis was killed.
“It's always difficult to work a murder investigation, but I told our guys from the beginning we'd be kidding ourselves if we said this was the same as any other, simply because you don't work the murder of a police officer maybe once in a career if ever,” said Lt. Thompson.
Tips are still coming in to Kentucky State Police, but not like they once were.
“We're kind of at a lull on the investigation for good leads,” said Lt. Thompson.
Lt. Jeremy Thompson says hundreds of people have been interviewed in the case.
“There's times when we've had someone that we thought, could this person be a suspect,” said Lt. Thompson.
There have still been no arrests and there’s the remaining question of who would do this, and why.
The loss has taken a toll on the community and fellow officers.
“It takes a little bit of you away mentally. I'd be lying if I said it didn't, but it does,” said Chief McCubbin.
KSP and the FBI refuse to give up hope. We asked both agencies if they consider this a “cold case”.
“Absolutely not. This investigation- I've been with the state police almost 17 years and it's unprecedented in my involvement in the case of this size. We have one full time investigator. That's all he does is work on this particular case. I've never seen that happen,” said Lt. Thompson.
“The chances always are less as time goes on in any case like this. But really it's the piece of information that I know someone must have, that if they would come forward we would be able to solve this case,” said Mary Trotman, Chief Division Counsel of Louisville’s FBI office.
Shell casings from a 12-gauge shotgun were found at the scene the day of the murder. Officer Ellis's weapon was still in his holster.
With little evidence left behind and no witnesses that police know of, there are more questions than answers.
There's even the question of who was really the target.
“We've never been able to definitely say that Jason was the target. We believe with high certainty that it was a police officer that was a target, but I can't tell you today that Jason Ellis was a target of this murder,” said Lt.Thompson.
Ellis' death not only hits home locally, but also on a nationally. He was recently honored in Washington, D.C. during National Police Week. His name has been added to the National Law Enforcement Memorial.
As local police continue their search for his killer, there's a feeling of uncertainty that remains in the community of Bardstown; even as people continue to hold out hope.
“And there is no closure for the family or the community,” said Christy Clark.
“When an officer dies, regardless of where he's from, it's part of your brotherhood,” said Buddy Gulden.
There is hope that one day someone will come forward, and the question of who killed Officer Jason Ellis, will finally be solved.
“Ultimately that's what will solve this. Someone in the public being courageous, whether it be for reward money, which is substantial, or whether it be wanting to do the right thing and the conscious gets the best of them... that's how this case will be solved,” said Lt.Thompson.
“It happened on my watch and I want full circle. I want to be here the day that person's arrested,” said Chief McCubbin.
The reward to find the killer in this case tops $200,000.
If you have information in this case, contact Kentucky State Police or the FBI.
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