Decherd Police Officer Mathew Ward was arrested Sunday night for pointing a gun at a motorist during an off-duty road rage incident that was caught on camera in Murfreesboro. The Decherd Police Department (DPD) allowed Ward to resign which could leave open the possibility of Ward receiving pension benefits or maybe even becoming employed with a different law enforcement agency.
The video below this article includes cell phone footage of the incident shot by concerned motorists. The footage shows Ward with his service weapon drawn and pointed at Ilya Kovalchuk on the side of I-24. Ward can be heard yelling allegations at Kavalchuk and telling him to "get on the ground" as if he were being arrested. Kovalchuk tried to reason with him while at same time trying to make his case known to witnesses by saying things like "I did not cut him off." All the while witnesses can be heard pointing out that Ward is not from that area, likely in response to Ward identifying himself as DPD officer. The confrontation was preceded by a high speed chase that began with Kovalchuk allegedly speeding and possibly cutting Ward off. Ward gave chase, flashed his badge, and signaled for Kovalchuk to pull over.
Ward is currently charged with aggravated assault. Some might wonder how he could be charged with assault just for pointing a gun and not firing it. Most states have what are called "reasonable apprehension of harm" prongs in their assault statutes that define assault as conduct that intentionally places a reasonable person in fear of bodily harm. Aggravated assault typically has added elements like using a deadly or dangerous weapon, so if someone intentionally places a person in fear of bodily harm while using a weapon they are typically charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. If the person makes physical contact with the victim then the assault becomes a battery. Many people use the terms assault and battery synonymously without realizing that they are in fact two different things. Every battery involves an assault, but not every assault results in a battery.
By allowing Ward to resign, the DPD may have opened doors for him. If Ward can get his felony pled down to a minor misdemeanor like menacing or harassment he might be able to find employment in law enforcement again. So called "Gypsy Cops" are known to bounce from department to department after getting into trouble and being allowed to resign before disciplinary action can commence. Then when a potential employer looks into their work history they appear to have had no problems at their previous jobs. The state of Tennessee could put a stop to this by revoking their law enforcement certification.
According to public records, Mathew Drake Ward is a 31 year old resident of Murfreesboro, Tennessee. He has no prior criminal history. He currently has an active Twitter account (https://twitter.com/MathewDrakeWard) created using the email address DrakeWard27[at]yahoo.com. He also operates a Facebook account featuring a giant American flag with a rattlesnake and the words "don't tread on me" superimposed on top of it in the header (https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100007551407379). We are uploading a screenshot of his Facebook account as a PDF with this article.