Attempted murder suspect has court hearing

An initial court hearing for a Columbus man accused of attempted murder, as well as eight other felonies, was held Wednesday in Bartholomew Circuit Court.

Three pending cases against Jacob D. Rice, 38, of 709 Reed St., were brought up by Judge Kelly Benjamin, including charges filed after an officer-involved shooting in the early morning hours of June 27 in the Forest Park residential neighborhood.

After Columbus Police Sgt. Lukas Nibarger was sent to investigate a 4 a.m. report of suspicious activity at a house in the 3300 block of Grove Parkway, the officer parked away from the scene and quietly approached the home on foot, according to court documents. fter reaching the residence, Nibarger saw a person looking into the front windows, a probable cause affidavit states.

The officer shined a flashlight on the person, later determined to be Rice, and identified himself as a police officer, the affidavit states. Nibarger noticed the suspect had a dark object in his hand before he saw Rice flee to the backyard. Investigators say it may have been a 9mm Smith & Wesson M&P Shield handgun recovered at the scene, along with one spent casing that matched the suspect’s pistol.

Nibarger repeatedly and loudly ordered Rice to show his hands as the suspect fled to a corner of the yard obscured by trees and shrubbery, the court document states. The probable cause affidavit states a single shot is then heard while Nibarger is giving commands to Rice, followed by four additional shots that sounded distinctively different from the first shot.

Investigators with the Indiana State Police said it appears Rice fired one round from his pistol toward Nibarger. The officer was not struck and was able to return fire with his department-issued handgun, striking Rice one time, state police said.

After spending a number of days in an Indianapolis hospital, Rice was eventually transferred to the Bartholomew County Jail. Nibarger is on administrative leave as the investigation continues, which is police department protocol.

Appearing during Wednesday’s hearing via video conferencing, Rice displayed a prominent limp as he walked to a chair in front of the camera and microphone in the Bartholomew County Jail. While answering questions from the judge, the defendant’s face maintained a grimace as if he was experiencing discomfort or pain.

In connection with the incident in Forest Park, Rice is charged with attempted murder as a Level 1 felony, criminal recklessness with a deadly weapon as a Level 6 felony and unlawful possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon as a Level 4 felony.

Rice has been arrested in Bartholomew County six times for resisting, obstructing or interfering with a law enforcement officer since 2004. He received a four-year prison term after punching an officer several times in the face on Oct. 2, 2017. At the time, Rice was being taken into custody for two outstanding arrest warrants.

The defendant is also accused of stealing the handgun involved in the Grove Parkway incident, as well as a bicycle, shortly before he was shot. As a result, Rice is also charged with two Level 6 counts of theft.

Rice kept his head down during much of Wednesday’s hearing, so only the top of his head could be seen. But he frequently shook his head back and forth while answering most questions with either “yes, ma’am” or “no, ma’am.”

The initial hearing also included two other cases that both involved drug activity late last winter. Rice is charged with dealing in a narcotic drug with intent to deliver as a Level 2 felony, possession of a narcotic drug as a Level 3 felony and possession of methamphetamine as a Level 6 felony for alleged crimes occurring on March 19. Two-and-a-half weeks earlier — on March 2 — Rice was accused of possession of a syringe — a Level 6 felony.

If convicted of all nine felonies, Rice could be sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison, as well as $90,000 in fines. The minimum sentence from a nine-count conviction would be 37-and-a-half years.

When asked if he could afford his own attorney, Rice replied he has someone trying to secure him legal counsel. After the defendant said he expects to learn if he will have his own attorney in two to three weeks, Benjamin scheduled a status of counsel hearing for 8:30 a.m. Aug. 23.

Other key court dates include a change of plea hearing or pre-trial conference on Oct. 11 at 10:45 a.m. The tentative date for a jury trial is Nov. 9, beginning at 8:30 a.m.

The judge reaffirmed bond for Rice at $750,000 surety or 10% cash.