Presumptive commish behaves badly
By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor
During a traffic stop that really wasn't, a deputy with the Bandera County Sheriff's Office asked presumptive Precinct 4 Commissioner Jordan "Jody" Rutherford if "he typically stays 'amped' up?"
Rutherford replied, "Yes."
That exchange culminated a strange episode that occurred at 2:28 am, Saturday, June 29, in the 4000 block of Highway 16 South. Returning home, off-duty City of Bandera Deputy Marshal Earl Heidelberg found himself behind two vehicles being driven approximately 30 miles per hour along Highway 16 South. An offense report submitted by BCSO Sgt. Jose Hernandez noted that when the vehicles finally pulled off the highway, Heidelberg also stopped to ascertain if either driver needed assistance.
According to Heidelberg, as he was approaching a vehicle, Rutherford "jumped out and began screaming and hollering," accusing Heidelberg of "pacing." Pacing is a technique patrol officers often use to determine if a motorist is speeding if the patrol vehicle is not equipped with radar. Pacing is normally used if both vehicles are traveling in the same direction.
In response to Rutherford's accusation, Heidelberg denied "pacing," explaining he was merely attempting to ascertain if everything was all right with the motorists. At this point in the conversation, Heidelberg radioed emergency dispatch and requested backup at the scene. As Hernandez's report stated, "During this time, a male subject could be heard over the radio, yelling in the background."
BCSO Deputies Matt Krueger and Kim Manglberger, along with Hernandez and Department of Public Safety Trooper Eric Morgan, headed to the location.
Hernandez approached the male subject who was subsequently identified as Rutherford via his driver's license and a concealed handgun license. Hernandez asked Rutherford to explain what had happened. Rutherford's wife, Carolyn, had been driving a second vehicle.
Send for sheriff
In response, Rutherford "raised his voice" to Hernandez and demanded that he call "Dan Butts and have him come out." According to the report, Hernandez replied that he didn't ask for "this attitude," but simply wanted to hear Rutherford's side of the story. When Rutherford alluded to Hernandez already knowing about the situation, the deputy assured him that "... if I knew what was going on, I would not have to ask you."
Hernandez also advised that Rutherford just "relax and explain to him what happened." Rutherford acquiesced and proceeded to direct his narrative to Krueger. Noting that Hernandez was his supervisor, Krueger asked Rutherford to explain the incident to Hernandez. In reply, Rutherford stated that he knew Hernandez was "a supervisor, corporal or sergeant or whatever he is."
At this point, Rutherford revealed that he and his wife had been returning to their home in Pipe Creek from Utopia through Bandera. Noting that he serves as chief of the Utopia VFD and his wife works as a paramedic with Utopia EMS, Rutherford explained that he and his wife had spent the day assisting with the rodeo in Utopia. He added that his wife had requested that he "drive slow tonight because she wanted to keep up with him ..." because he had apparently gotten ahead of her the night before.
Rutherford said that an unknown vehicle had pulled behind at the light at the intersection of Highway 16 and WHAT. Referring to Heidelberg, he noted "instead of going on by, he follows "up right against [his wife], right up her butt," according to the report. Rutherford also thought Heidelberg's proximity meant he was running his wife's license plates. Rutherford said that he then slowed down from 55 mph to let the unknown vehicle pass, but "now he comes right up on her." Both vehicles then pulled over in the 4000 block of Highway 16 South. At that point, according to Heidelberg, he walked around his pickup truck to retrieve a flashlight.
Additionally, Rutherford had identified Heidelberg as a "cop because he had a gun." He also reiterated that he and his wife "weren't doing anything."
Hernandez attempted to explain there were no indications the couple had done anything wrong; he just wanted to figure out what was going on.
At this point, it appeared Rutherford was again ratcheting up the exchange, which prompted Hernandez to comment he didn't know why Rutherford was angry with the law enforcement officers.
According to Hernandez, Rutherford said he wasn't mad at [Hernandez], he just wanted to know why "Deputy Marshal Heidelberg's pickup was run up his wife's butt while they were doing 30 miles per hour and to be given an idea as to what he did wrong."
Again, Hernandez explained that Heidelberg had checked on the couple to ensure everything was all right. Additionally, Trooper Morgan explained that at this time of the morning, officers typically deal with intoxicated drivers who often drive at a slow rate of speed.
After informing Morgan that he was not intoxicated, Rutherford continued to argue with law enforcement officers on the scene. At this point, Hernandez asked Rutherford if he typically stayed "amped up," Rutherford replied, "Yes."
Realizing more conversation was fruitless, Hernandez returned Rutherford's driver's license and CHL and told him he was free to go. In response, Rutherford continued to argue with him, becoming increasingly upset. According to the report, Hernandez informed Rutherford it would not be professional for him to continue to argue anymore and returned to his patrol vehicle. Shortly, both Rutherfords departed the location.
In the course of heated discussions, Rutherford apparently threatened to file a complaint about Heidelberg.
City Marshal James "Charlie" Hicks said that Rutherford had, in fact, called to apologize to Heidelberg for the way he had handled the incident. According to Chief Deputy Matt King, Rutherford had offered no apologies to BCSO officers. However, King noted that after Sheriff Butts returned a call from Carolyn Rutherford, her husband called to thank the sheriff.
'Target on back'
Barring a write-in candidate during November's General Election, Rutherford will become a county commissioner in January. As commissioner of Precinct 4, he will be one of four elected officials voting on myriad issues that affect BCSO.
When apprised of the incident, one court-watching wag quipped, "When Jodie takes those classes in open records and open meetings, maybe he'd better sign up for a couple of sessions in anger management."
As County Judge Richard Evans has often said, "Once you're an elected official, you have a target on your back, and everything that you do becomes reflected through the lens of an elected official." And, there is no doubt that once officials take their oaths of office, they are in the public eye 24-7.