LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — The FBI came forward Monday with its own reward of up to $50,000 in the case of a Kentucky police officer fatally shot in an ambush three months ago, and said it was backing a billboard campaign in a two-pronged effort to try to drum up new leads.
The latest law-enforcement outreach comes as investigators continue sifting through tips in the slaying of Jason Ellis. He was hit with multiple shotgun blasts May 25 after he got out of his cruiser to pick up tree limbs strewn on a highway exit ramp. Police think the limbs were put there intentionally so he would stop.
"We obviously need information," said Mary Trotman, an FBI spokeswoman in Louisville. "We really are trying to appeal to the public to pick up the phone."
Kentucky State Police Trooper Jeff Gregory said reward money in the case now totals $218,000. The FBI reward is for information leading to an arrest and conviction.
No suspects have been identified. Ellis was headed home at the time of his slaying.
Gregory said the size of the reward "ups our odds of having somebody come forward" with information. Investigators are looking for even "the tiniest bit of information" that might produce a fresh lead putting them on a path toward catching a suspect, he said.
"If they hear information third hand from somebody on a different shift who heard that their cousin said something, we want to know about it," Gregory said at a news conference at the Louisville FBI office. "We'd rather you tell us and let us dismiss it, instead of not hearing about it at all."
Tips are still coming in daily, he said, but added: "Where we are right now is basically where we have been the last few weeks."
Ellis' death led to an outpouring of grief in Bardstown, a town of about 12,000 some 40 miles southeast of Louisville. Hundreds attended Ellis' funeral and even more lined roads to the country cemetery where he was buried.
The 33-year-old had a K-9 partner, Figo. The dog was retired after Ellis' death and now lives with the slain officer's family. Ellis was survived by his wife and two sons.
Ellis' picture will be displayed on billboards seeking information in the case that will go up in coming days, Trotman said. It's planned as a national campaign to raise awareness and to, perhaps, spur someone outside the area to come forward with any information they might have, she said.
"It just makes sense to cast a broad net of information," she said.
Trotman didn't have details on how many billboards will go up and where. The billboard space is being donated, Trotman said.