NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (BP) — When John Eric Schmidt was charged with second-degree murder, no one could have known that within a year, not only would the charge be dropped but Schmidt would be celebrating his salvation in Christ.
Schmidt, 53, of North Little Rock, Ark., was charged after shooting 32-year-old Chad Johnson during what Pulaski County sheriff’s deputies said was a property dispute, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
The incident took place in Graves Memorial Baptist Church’s parking lot in North Little Rock around 6:25 a.m. on July 7 of last year. Schmidt, who has emergency medical training, tried to administer first aid to Johnson, but Johnson died en route to the hospital. Schmidt required medical attention for his injuries in the incident.
Authorities dropped the murder charge on Jan. 8, according to the Democrat-Gazette.
Schmidt’s lawyer, David Cannon, said the charge was dropped after it was determined that Schmidt acted in self-defense, the Democrat-Gazette reported. Cannon said Johnson had choked Schmidt, which had forced Schmidt to act.
In an interview with the Arkansas Baptist News, Graves Memorial pastor Travis Matthews explained that although the event occurred on church property, it did not involve the church. Matthews also confirmed that Schmidt and his wife Amber had been attending Graves Memorial, though they were not members at the time — a fact that changed over the course of several months.
The tragedy turned into a ministry opportunity for Graves Memorial. Matthews recounted that Schmidt’s daughter Felicity had been baptized and was involved in the student ministry and praise team at the time of the shooting, so Schmidt and his wife had visited the church several times to support her. Because of this, the groundwork had been laid for ministry to the family following the shooting.
Matthews said he met regularly with Schmidt, who had become very depressed in the weeks after the incident.
“The shooting really became an opportunity to build a deep relationship with the family,” Matthews said. “[It was] a painful journey but a way God used to bring healing in their lives overall.”
Eventually, both Schmidt and his wife accepted Christ as Lord and Savior and were baptized at the church in September and are now active in ministry.
“I believe God takes the hard things in life, and when we surrender to God and let God do a work, you can see the fruit of God doing great things in those circumstances,” Matthews said. “You don’t want to make light of a horrible situation, but it definitely brings joy to see God bring beauty from ashes.”
The church “has learned to love in a different way and have a compassionate spirit,” the pastor added.
As for Schmidt, he said his prayer has been that the ordeal would be “used for good and as example of the power of God and of love between Christians.”