STANTON, Ky. – A man charged with shooting to death a small-town eastern Kentucky police chief he considered a friend appeared in court Friday morning and a judge ordered him held without bail.
Jamie Barnett, 37, wasn't asked to enter a plea. Instead, Powell County District Judge Kenneth Profitt assigned him a public defender and set a preliminary hearing for June 25.
Dressed in a blue jail-issued jumpsuit and surrounded by several extra security officers while seated at the front of the courtroom, Barnett didn't make eye contact with family members of the man he allegedly killed, Randy Lacy.
Barnett's oldest son, James Jr., 18, attended the arraignment and said it was extremely difficult watching his father in court.
"He's a good guy," James Barnett Jr. said. "When he's on drugs and stuff, you can't really get a lot of stuff out of him. Whenever he's off, he's like the best man in the world you'll ever meet. He's good hearted, would give you anything you wanted — the shirt off his back if he had it."
Barnett's wife and three other children — one just a month old — didn't appear in court. His uncle, Herbert Barnett, called it an unspeakable tragedy for two families that had been close.
"It's sad for both families," he said. "Lacy was my friend, and Jamie is my nephew. Now we've lost two people."
In an interview Thursday night with The Associated Press, Barnett said he was too high on drugs to recall any of the events that led up to the shooting.
"I feel like I'm dying inside," he said in the interview at the jail in Mount Sterling, about 15 miles away from the site of Wednesday's shooting. "I remember going to a liquor store and eating a handful of Xanax and ending up here." Xanax is an anti-anxiety medication.
Meanwhile, investigators were trying to determine how Lacy's gun was grabbed and used to shoot him in the back of the head at point-blank range. Barnett was handcuffed behind a wire and hard plastic barrier in the back seat of a squad car.
"That's kind of a mystery to us," said Powell County Coroner Carl Wells, who conducted an autopsy Thursday.
Barnett wore a jumpsuit Friday resembling the one he wore in the interview, but his brown hair, unshaven beard and mustache appeared to have been cleaned up for his appearance before the judge.
During the interview, he occasionally buried his face in his hands and had tears streaming down his face for most of the interview, which lasted about 12 minutes. He teared up particularly when discussing his newborn daughter.
"I just want to tell her I love her," he said.
Lacy was a family friend who had been working with him to try to get him off drugs, Barnett said. Sometimes at Christmas, the chief even played Santa for Barnett's children.
"I'd lay down there and let them stick a needle in my arm if it would bring him back," Barnett said.
Barnett said Lacy, who had arrested him numerous times, would always cuff him in the front "because he was my friend" and sometimes didn't handcuff him at all.
Kentucky State Police acknowledged that Lacy handcuffed Barnett in the front rather than behind his back — a frequent practice for suspects he knew.
Greg Adams, a Powell County sheriff's deputy, said Lacy often kept a second gun between the seat and console in the front. He speculated that the extra gun could have slipped to the back, but state police officials handling the investigation wouldn't comment on that theory.
Lacy, 55, had served 22 years in law enforcement and was the only active member of the police force in Clay City, a rural town of 1,300 people about 40 miles east of Lexington.
Although the final results of the autopsy weren't yet available, Wells said Lacy was shot at point-blank range in the back of the head. He was behind the wheel of his cruiser when he was shot, and the car swerved another 350 feet before colliding with a stop sign and rolling into a ditch, Wells said.
The bullet traveled through the backseat cage carrying Barnett, 37, whom Lacy had picked up just minutes earlier for allegedly driving while intoxicated.
Barnett has an arrest record dating back to 1993, including multiple drug possession charges. He said he has been high on a variety of drugs, including cocaine, for at least six months but never intended to harm anyone.
"It wouldn't even cross my mind, no matter how messed up I got," he said.
His most recent arrest prior to the shooting took place April 9, when Barnett was arrested and charged with leaving the scene of an accident, driving with a suspended or revoked license, driving without insurance, DUI and disorderly conduct.
A citation for the incident reports that he threatened a state trooper by saying, "Let me out of these handcuffs, I'll hurt you."
A procession of about three dozen police cars and fire trucks — some from as far as Louisville — followed a hearse carrying Lacy's body Thursday afternoon to Wells Funeral Home in Stanton, Ky., which is handling the arrangements.
Lacy's funeral was scheduled for 2 p.m. EDT Sunday at the Powell County High School gym, with burial in West Bend Cemetery. Visitation was from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the funeral home.