Who is Mathew Ward? Tennessee cop pulls gun on motorist in road rage incident
DECHERD, TENNESSEE: In the now-viral cellphone footage, initially obtained by the media, an off-duty police officer from Decherd, Tennessee, was seen pulling a gun at a driver amidst a road rage incident. Identified as Mathew Ward, the man has since resigned from the Decherd Police Department, after he was suspended over the incident.
Ward's incident comes in the wake of the harrowing murder of 6-year-old Aiden Leos who was killed on May 21, in a road rage incident that left the nation rattled. Leos was traveling with his mother Joanna Cloonan to school when he was shot dead by a passing driver after his mother had shown them the middle finger. Cloonan had made the gesture in the rearview mirror as the other car tried to overtake her in the carpool lane of the northbound side of State Route 55, in the city of Orange. Ward's June arrest also comes just a month after the Murfreesboro Police had asked drivers to practice patience on roads following several reports of incidents of road rage within the span of four days.
Who is Mathew Ward?
The 31-year-old former cop of Cason Lane in Murfreesboro, was "allowed to resign" after he was arrested for pulling a gun at a fellow driver on the Interstate 24 route. Son of a veteran police officer, and in the force for less than three months, Ward was suspended after the video of his road rage incident surfaced in the media.
He was arrested in Murfreesboro on the night of Sunday, June 13 after he pointed his gun at the victim, identified as Ilya Kovalchuk. Ward, who was released on a $5,000 bond, has since been charged with aggravated assault. He is set to appear in the general sessions court later this year, on October 27.
Local channel WSMV learned from the Rutherford County Sheriff's Office that Ward had seen Kovalchuk speeding on the I-24 and shown the victim his badge before asking him to slow down. Deputies told the outlet that the two drivers then exchanged words before Ward pursued the other driver at 120 mph before exiting at the Medical Center Parkway on I-24.
Caught on video, Ward can be seen pulling the gun on a fellow driver for allegedly cutting him off. Pointing the weapon at the driver, Ward can be heard in the video asking the driver to lay on the ground. "He said I cut him off… I did not cut him off," the victim can be heard saying in the video. Ward then yells, threatening the driver: "Get on the ground now!" The victim, who still has Ward's gun pointed at him, then retorts: "You're not on duty!" Still pointing the gun, Ward then tells the driver: "It doesn't matter. I am on duty 24-7! Get on the ground!"
Speaking about the incident, Rutherford County Sheriff Patrol Cpl. William Travis said in a news release: "Ward drew his Decherd-issued handgun and pointed it at Mr. Kovalchuk while ordering him to lay on the ground." The police also told FOX17 News that Ward's suspension was without pay, and soon after he resigned. According to Decherd Police, Ward violated their policy that restricts off-duty officers from intervening in certain situations.