A Pineville man reportedly took his life inside the Bell County Justice Center on Wednesday following a court appearance.
According to Kentucky State Police Public Affairs Officer Shane Jacobs, Kentucky State Police, Post 10 Harlan received a call at 10:55 a.m. from Bell County Sheriff Mitch Williams, reporting that a shooting had occurred inside of the Justice Center in Pineville. Detectives and troopers from Post 10 responded to the scene.
Jacobs said the preliminary investigation indicates that Erik B. Barnett, 25, had a court appearance and then was taken into custody on orders of the judge. Barnett was being escorted to the jail via an elevator in the basement of the Justice Center by the court bailiff. Once inside the elevator an altercation took place between the bailiff and Barnett. The bailiff was knocked to the ground and his weapon was taken from him by Barnett. Barnett then suffered a self-inflicted gunshot wound while on the elevator. The bailiff did not receive any medical treatment due to the altercation. Barnett was pronounced dead at the scene by the Bell County Coroner Jay Steele.
The body was sent to the State Medical Examiner’s Office in Frankfort for an autopsy on Thursday. This case is still under investigation by KSP Det. Jake Wilson.
Bell County Sheriff’s Department, the Pineville Police Department, and Bell County Emergency Management System were also on scene.
According to Bell County Circuit Court Clerk Colby Slusher, the building was evacuated after the incident and shut down for the rest of the day. Slusher is thankful the situation was controlled in the proper manner.
“We’ve been fortunate today to not have the public or any of our employees hurt,” said Slusher. “We are thankful for that.”
Slusher credits all of the local law enforcement for their part in ensuring the day’s tragedy was kept to a minimum.
Slusher says he has spoken with the proper authorities in Frankfort to ensure the Justice Center will be back open on Thursday.
Bell County Judge-Executive Albey Brock expressed his condolences for everyone involved, saying he was thankful no one else was injured in the tragedy.
“This is a horrible tragedy on multiple levels and we should pray for everyone affected and be thankful no one else was hurt,” said Brock.
The sheriff declined comment after he requested the Kentucky State Police to conduct the investigation.
Reach Reina P. Cunningham at 606-302-9091 or on Twitter @ReinaDailyNews.