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Kayvon Ward sentenced to life in prison following two-week trial

The jury unanimously found that Ward did not premeditate before shooting Officer Scrimshire, which led them to the verdict of a life in prison sentence.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. — After an emotion-filled morning, the jury in the trial of Kayvon Ward unanimously sentenced him to life in prison for the 1st-degree murder of Hot Springs Police Officer Brent Scrimshire in 2020.

He was also sentenced to a consecutive life sentence for the aggravated assault of an officer.

Additional charges included defacing a firearm, resisting arrest, obstructing governmental operations, and fleeing— all of which carry penalties under 6 years.

Ward was arrested after Scrimshire pulled him over on March 10, 2020. Ward gave a fake name, had no license, no proof of registration, and no insurance. 

Scrimshire told Ward to call someone to bring a car seat for the two-year-old child that was in the backseat of the car without one.

In a dashcam video of the stop played throughout the trial, Scrimshire said that he would work with Ward on everything else, but that the child needed a seat.

When Coraima Hernandez, the mother of the child, arrived, Officers Scrimshire and Anthony Larkin walked back to speak to her.

Ward opened the car door, and two officers rushed over to keep him in the car.

After a brief struggle, Ward was pulled out of the red Nissan Xterra he was driving.

It's difficult to see in the video, but Hernandez runs over to the three men wrestling on the ground.

Officer Larkin testified that Hernandez choked him, which allowed Ward a moment to slip away.

Ward then ran into the backyard of a home on Kenwood Street in Hot Springs. There is no body camera video of this— Larkin's was knocked off in the struggle, and Scrimshire's never turned on.

As officers pursued Ward, Hernandez jumped in the SUV and fled.

There has been back and forth about who shot first, and Ward maintained that the officers shot first, while Larkin said that Ward did.

Ward was shot multiple times, and Scrimshire was shot on his upper right chest, just above his body armor vest. He later died from his injuries.

Testimony was emotional during the trial, and evidence totaled in the hundreds of items during the two-week trial.

Officers who responded to the backyard and those who knew Scrimshire well were in tears while recounting the events of that night— one officer even described Scrimshire as his best friend.

The state pushed for the death penalty in this trial but ultimately reached a verdict to sentence Ward to life in prison.

Kara Petro, who led the state's prosecution, said that while she wasn't happy with the jury's verdict, she was glad he received a life sentence.

"I was pretty shocked, I was," she said. "But, you know, I do think in the end Brent got justice because murder, one, does carry a life sentence and it's still without parole."

The defense presented evidence that Ward suffers from schizophrenia, but Petro presented evidence of the opposite.

Defense Attorney Bill James argued during the trial that Ward's schizophrenia led him to have lapses in judgment and rendered him incapable of making long-term decisions.

He said that means Ward couldn't have premeditated anything, which was a key part of the capital murder charge that Ward was initially charged with.

While Ward was spared the death penalty, James says there are no winners or losers in this— only pain.

"Who wins in this? Everybody loses," he said. "The Scrimshires, again, you can't quantify that loss. Mr. Ward's family loses, everybody loses, the community loses. It's just bad all around."

Also testifying during the trial were those closest to both Ward and Scrimshire.

Ward's father, Kevin, spoke Friday morning about his son growing up, telling the jury, "I wish that things could be different, I love my son so much. I'm sorry," before breaking into tears and pleading with the jury.

"Please, please have mercy on my son," he said.

Officer Larkin, who was in the backyard when Scrimshire was shot, also spoke on the impact this has had on him.

He prepared a written statement and opened by saying, "How do you measure the impact of watching someone shot and killed before your own eyes?" 

Larkin also said that he struggles with survivor's guilt and has trouble working patrol shifts for fear of his and his fellow HSPD officers' safety.

"To this day, I am mixed with guilt and appreciation that my daughter has her father," Larkin said.

One voice that didn't testify during the bulk of the trial, but who spoke on Friday was Scrimshire's wife, Rachel.

She said that it's hard to forgive Ward for what happened, but she's trying to.

"Brent always told me, he said, you know, bad guys have rights too," she said. "I feel it was a fair and just trial, and you know, he got the verdict he deserved."

As for Hernandez, the prosecutor's office said they are unsure at this time when her trial will begin. THV11 will have the latest update when that happens.


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