Bardstown officer's widow: Faith is helping her through shock, sadness and anger

Amy Ellis, widow of Bardstown police officer Jason Ellis, spoke to media Tuesday at the Bardstown Police Station. Officer Jason Ellis was killed Saturday on the Blue Grass Parkway in Nelson County.
Amy Ellis, widow of Bardstown police officer Jason Ellis, spoke to media Tuesday at the Bardstown Police Station. Officer Jason Ellis was killed Saturday on the Blue Grass Parkway in Nelson County. Lexington Herald-Leader

BARDSTOWN — Amy Ellis, wife of slain Bardstown police officer Jason Ellis, said Tuesday that her faith is keeping her going through her grief and shock.

"There's no words to explain the sadness that I have, the anger that I have," Amy Ellis told reporters at a news conference at the Nelson County Sheriff's Office, next door to the city police department. "I'm proud of him, but it's only through God that I'm able to sit here right now."

Jason Ellis, 33, was shot multiple times with a shotgun Saturday after he got out of his cruiser to pick up debris on Blue Grass Parkway in Nelson County. Authorities say they think it was an ambush.

Amy Ellis was flanked by Bardstown Police Chief Rick McCubbin, other officers of the department and Tara Denzinger, the widow of Frank Denzinger, a Floyd County, Ind., deputy sheriff who was shot and killed in 2007 after responding to a domestic disturbance.

Ellis said she and her two sons, ages 6 and 7, are "doing as good as can be expected. It will be a long hard road."

She thanked everyone who has expressed support, including those who attended a community candlelight vigil Monday night.

"I just wanted to first thank the community for the support and the love and the honor that has been shown to our family and to Jason," Amy Ellis said in an opening statement. "It just means a lot. I can't say how much it has meant to us. ... He was an amazing man, and I just want everyone to know what an amazing man he was. He was a dedicated family man. He loved our family. He loved our boys. He loved me."

Ellis said she met Jason on Valentine's Day 12 years ago, while they were students at University of the Cumberlands.

"It was truly, truly love at first sight," she said.

She described Jason as a man who was serious when he had to be, but who also had a "goofy" streak, such as when he attended a dressed-up city Christmas party wearing an elf sweater and an elf hat.

She recalled riding with him on one patrol when he pulled someone over. "He was at the car and I was watching him, and he was kind of laughing and putting on. And when he got back in he car, I said, 'Did you know them?' And he said, 'No.' He wasn't a jerk like that. He loved helping people. He loved his job. He just wanted to do his job, to do it good, to do it right and to clean up the streets."

Asked how he became a K-9 officer, Amy Ellis said: "He was always a go-getter. He was never content just to be, so I think that was kind of the next step for him. He was dedicated to his job and he wanted to clean the streets up. And that was the way to get the drugs off the streets."

Ellis said, "The only reason I can get up here right now is because of prayers, and God has picked me up off the bathroom floor."

"I didn't want to live another second without him, but I know that I have to be strong for our kids," she said. "I feel the prayers and the support. I truly do."

McCubbin said Kentucky State Police have received a lot of tips "but nothing we can get excited over just yet." McCubbin said police are combing through arrests that Jason Ellis made as an officer of the department over the past seven years.

McCubbin said he plans to retire Figo, the German shepherd that Jason Ellis was responsible for as a K-9 officer. McCubbin said Ellis made a dent in drug trafficking in Nelson County with Figo as his partner.

The mayor of Bardstown has scheduled a news conference for 5 p.m. Tuesday, McCubbin said.

McCubbin said Bardstown police and Kentucky State Police investigators are "working around the clock, literally" to pursue answers to questions in the case.

"Not much sleep and a whole lot of Red Bull (energy drink) is getting us all through it. We're not going to rest for quite a while," McCubbin said. "Nobody really wants to sleep. Nobody wants to go home. Everybody wants to stay here and most of us are. Everybody just wants to be a part of whatever it is we need to do to capture these folks or to just help out his family.

"But yet we still have our job to do. We're still making runs and calls for service from our community. So our folks are doing a wonderful job of balancing sadness, emotions, anger, (with) the professionalism that every one of them has."

McCubbin said he has instructed his officers to be more vigilant in the wake of the shooting.

"I've asked our folks, 'Don't get your guard down,'" McCubbin said. "'Don't let the emotions take over' so we don't have anyone else hurt. That's the hardest part, staying focused."

McCubbin has been chief of the Bardstown department for two years. It has 25 uniformed officers and has openings for two more.

"This has struck a lot of people," McCubbin said. "A lot of people have stopped me and said, 'We understand your job's dangerous and police are killed every day somewhere.' But I think the fashion and the manner this one was done has angered even those who may not know a cop. We're hoping that anger will mirror ours and help us get it solved."

McCubbin has emphasized that two officers should respond to every call. "I didn't have to even say that because our officers are three, four deep on every call, even if it's just riding by or in the area."

McCubbin said Officer Ellis drove a pool cruiser the night of the shooting because the SUV he normally drove was in the shop getting painted. Ellis wore a bullet-resistant vest at the time of the shooting, McCubbin said.

Police have not released what kind of debris was in the road, and McCubbin declined to specify it on Tuesday.

"It's part of the case and KSP has asked me to withhold that at this point," McCubbin said.

No single previous arrest made by Ellis jumps out as a possible suspect, McCubbin said.

"Jason was extremely active," he said. "He was one of our top cops when it came to activities, arrests. The dent that he made locally in our drug problem, I think the community might underestimate what he did locally. So, in other words, there's not any one person right now -- because there are so many -- that he arrested, from different parts of town, from different areas, different groups of folks. And every one of them is being viewed with a microscope at this time. Nothing is ruled out."

McCubbin estimated that Ellis made a dozen drug-related arrests per month. "He wanted to arrest those that had drugs and especially those that were dealing drugs," he said. "With his canine partner, that's what Figo was trained for, was drugs."

Asked if Ellis had received any death threats prior to the shooting, McCubbin said, "No, sir."

McCubbin acknowledged that the investigation might become a long, protracted affair.

"I say that because I want it done correctly," he said. "And I know it will be. But if it takes us six months, I want it done right. I want people in prison that did this. I don't want any stupid technicality that defense attorneys can come up with. I want a good, solid case that puts people away for life or the death penalty."

Thursday, the day of Ellis' funeral, would have been the seventh anniversary of his start with the Bardstown police department, McCubbin said.

Kentucky State Police will be covering Nelson County on Thursday so city and county law enforcement officers may attend the funeral, McCubbin said.

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