Authorities are searching for clues in the shooting death of a Bardstown, Ky., police officer who was ambushed along a highway exit ramp after leaving his car to remove debris from the road.
State police believe the debris was intentionally placed to draw someone out of their vehicle, but they're not sure whether a law enforcement officer was the target or someone else.
"I've been a trooper for 19 years and I've never seen anything like this, the level of planning," Trooper Norman Chaffins with the Kentucky State Police told ABCNews.com. The State Police are the lead agency on the investigation.
K-9 Officer Jason Ellis, 33, was on his way home at 2:53 a.m. Saturday morning when he stopped on the exit 34, the same ramp he took every day off the Blue Grass Parkway in Nelson County, 10 miles from Bardstown. When Ellis began removing debris from the roadway, he was shot multiple times. Kentucky State Police wouldn't say what the debris was, calling it a crucial part of the investigation.
"It wasn't a traffic stop that went bad. It wasn't an arrest that went bad," said Bardstown Chief of Police Rick McCubbin. "That someone actually took the time to plan it and set it up makes it that much more, obviously hurtful, but it makes you mad."
Shortly after the attack, a passing motorist found Ellis, whose vehicle lights were still flashing, and called police using the radio in the officer's cruiser. The motorist described the scene as if it was an apparent traffic accident, but when a trooper arrived, it became clear that this was no accidental death.
"We have no suspects at this time, but we don't believe kids were responsible because of how calculated the crime was. The location was obviously not picked randomly," said Trooper Chaffins.
"Officer Ellis didn't even have time to remove his gun," said the trooper.
The shooting occurred in a rural area and no witnesses have yet come forward. Ellis had a dash-cam installed in his car, but it was not on at the time of the shooting.
Kentucky State Police are asking for the public's help in identifying anything that seemed unusual or out of place on the exit 34 ramp prior to the shooting.
"The smallest detail that may not seem important to a lay person may be the one detail we need to bring someone to justice," said investigators in a statement. Citizens are asked to "Text a Tip" or visit the Kentucky State Police online or email a public affairs officer.
"I can assure you we won't give up on this person until we have him either in custody or in the front side of one of our weapons and I personally hope the latter is the choice," said Chief McCubbin.
Ellis was a seven-year veteran of the Bardstown Police Department and is the first officer killed in the line of the duty for this small agency, located about 40 miles south of Louisville. Ellis leaves behind his wife and two sons.