Suspect in attempted murder case seeks jury trial

A suspect accused of the attempted murder of a Columbus police officer wants his case to go before a Bartholomew Circuit Court jury.

The trial of Jacob D. Rice, 39, of Columbus – accused of firing a shot at Sgt. Lukas Nibarger in the 3300 block of Grove Parkway on June 27, 2021 – is scheduled to begin on Tuesday, Oct. 25.

Rice is charged with a series of events that, for investigators, began after a vacationing neighbor watching live video surveillance by a remote device called Columbus police officers to report a suspicious person in his neighborhood, according to a probable cause affidavit.

After Nibarger arrived and approached the residential area, he saw a man peeking through the windows of homes shortly after 4 a.m., the affidavit states. The CPD officer loudly identified himself as a police officer and twice ordered Rice to show his hands, according to court documents.

But instead of surrendering, the suspect is accused of fleeing into an area of the yard camouflaged with trees and shrubbery. It was from this hiding place that Indiana State Police investigators accuse Rise of firing a single shot toward Nibarger.

While the officer was not hit, Rice was wounded after the patrolman returned fire, court documents state. Rice was hospitalized at an Indianapolis trauma center until he recovered and was transferred to the Bartholomew County Jail, local officials state.

Rice was later formally charged with attempted murder as a Level 1 felony, two counts of theft as Level 6 felonies, unlawful possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon as a Level 4 felony and criminal recklessness and theft of a firearm, both Level 6 felonies.

Surveillance video from other locations reportedly shows that Rice stole a 9mm Smith &Wesson M&P Shield handgun from a Franklin Street home, as well as a bicycle from a residence on Nugent Boulevard, according to the police report. The 9 mm weapon, as well as a spent shell, were found where Rice was hiding in the yard, court documents state.

Public defender Chris Monroe announced Rice’s desire for a jury trial during what was intended to be a change of plea hearing Monday.

Judge Kelly Benjamin told both Monroe and Deputy Prosecutor Sara Laska that if they want testimony or evidence they want included or excluded during the trial, they need to notify the court no later than Sept. 30. The judge will make a ruling on those requests on Oct. 13.

While Laska told the judge she intends to call 12 witnesses, most will be law enforcement officers, she said. If the testimony becomes redundant, the deputy prosecutor says she may shorten her list of witnesses and may complete the trial within three days.

Meanwhile, Monroe told the court he is still awaiting hospital records that he hopes will bolster the defense’s case. He has not yet said how many witnesses he plans to call at this time.