Lifeguard, pool attendants can get tested, certified online in Jefferson County Wednesday, Jul 1 2020 

If individuals are unable to complete online testing and certification, in-person testing is still available by appointment.

        

Driving In Indiana? Put Down That Phone Starting Today Wednesday, Jul 1 2020 

Indiana has joined more than 20 other states that have banned drivers from using handheld devices while operating a vehicle.

House Bill 1070 goes into effect Wednesday after being signed by Gov. Eric Holcomb in March. The legislation means drivers will no longer be allowed to hold cell phones or other devices in their hands while a vehicle is in motion.

In 2011, a similar – though less restrictive law – that banned texting was passed by the Indiana General Assembly. But Sen. Ron Grooms, a sponsor of the new legislation, said it was too difficult to enforce.

“Police officers had no idea what you were texting or calling 911, or [listening to] a voicemail,” he said. “So, it became very difficult to try to enforce that. It was basically unenforceable and not really a very good law.”

Those difficulties with enforcement, along with high numbers of accidents involving distracted drivers, prompted lawmakers to revisit the issue. Grooms pointed to the fact that the state saw more than 1,200 accidents and at least three fatalities attributed to distracted driving involving cell phones in 2019.

The new law will be easier to enforce, as simply seeing a driver holding a phone could prompt a traffic stop, Indiana State Police Sgt. Carey Huls said. But it isn’t expected to amount to many citations, at least at first.

ISP will instead focus on informing drivers of the law and how to comply with it. Any citations issued in the first year will not result in points against a person’s license.

“Our goal over the next year is going to be education,” Huls said. “We expect a lot more warnings. If somebody has some egregious driving behavior that’s the result of holding the phone, that person should expect a citation. The fine for that is going to change from county to county.”

There are exceptions built into the law. Drivers are still permitted to make emergency calls. Dashboard mounts and Bluetooth can be used as alternatives to holding a device. Momentarily taking one’s hand off the steering wheel to answer a call will not be considered an infraction.

The Indiana Department of Labor’s website states that drivers who text are 23 times more likely to crash. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, approximately 23,000 deaths occurred due to distracted driving from 2012 to 2018. The organization has also reported that states with hands-free cell phone laws have seen positive results.

“They’ve had studies that show that their fatalities and their crashes have been reduced by quite a bit due to the fact that they had the hands-free legislation,” Huls said. “We’re expecting and hoping for the same results here in Indiana.”

Officials Apologize After Protester Belongings Are Dumped At Waste Site Monday, Jun 29 2020 

Mayor Greg Fischer, the Public Works Department and Louisville Metro Police have issued apologies for the way crews handled the property of protesters when their encampment in Jefferson Square Park was cleared last weekend following a fatal shooting.

27-year-old Tyler Gerth was struck by a bullet allegedly fired by a man who had been asked to leave the encampment. Louisville Metro Police have charged 24-year-old Steven Nelson Lopez with murder and reckless endangerment.

Following the shooting, authorities removed tents, sound systems and personal possessions using a backhoe and trucks, then dumped everything at the bulk waste drop-off center around 636 Meriwether Avenue.

Protesters claim the police used the shooting as a pretext to clear the camp. But Interim Police Chief Robert Schroeder said it was not their intention to damage property. Clearing the park was necessary to protect public safety, Schroeder said.

“I know that this has caused great concern and anger, but it simply had to be done given that we had a homicide in the park,” Schroeder said. “The tents and supplies that had taken over the park created a situation that could no longer be safely handled.”

Thomas Williams, 54, lost his heart pressure and diabetes medication. Others lost their wallets, car keys, tents, bags and other personal belongings. Williams is a protester, is homeless and has been staying at the encampment for the last three weeks.

“Well, by the time I came back here, 2 o’ clock in the morning, my belongings were gone and I guess the officers had taken it and threw it in the dumpster,” he said. “I also lost a tent and a pair of shoes. That’s a lot, that’s all I had.”

Following the shooting around 9 p.m. Saturday, police declared the encampment at Jefferson Square Park a crime scene. Louisville Metro Police Department cleared the camp of people. Later that night, city officials came in and cleared the park of protesters’ belongings.


Michelle Bryant, a cook who has been serving food at the protests, lost a grill and other belongings Saturday night. She said police threw away donations of food and water. Others say they lost wallets, IDs, cellphones and car keys, in addition to camping gear.

“And what they did last night, was told us to leave the scene of a crime. And we came back this morning and they wiped everything out,” Bryant said.

Cherrie Vaughn volunteered to go down to the bulk waste depot Sunday morning to recover peoples’ belongings. She said volunteers had until 5 p.m. to salvage as much as they could before the depot closed. Afterwards, they brought what they could back to Jefferson Square Park for people to sift through.

Thanks to the volunteers, Williams was able to retrieve a bag with his medications.

“And even though it was all messed up and everything, zipper torn up and everything, I spotted my bag of medicine so I grabbed them out of there,” Williams said.

David Mour, an attorney who has been present at demonstrations and represents protesters, said protesters were not given a fair warning before their belongings were removed.

It made sense for police to clear the park after declaring it a crime scene, he said. And if police needed to remove property for evidence, that would have made sense, too. But Mour said the mass removal of property was not called for.

“It was absolutely not necessary and I think it was not only a violation of civil rights, but of basic human rights,” Mour said.

On Sunday, Mayor Greg Fischer, the Public Works Department and Interim Police Chief Robert Schroeder all apologized for the way belongings were handled.

Fischer said it was a miscommunication with Public Works that led to what happened.

Demonstrators who lost property can file a claim for reimbursement. In order to be reimbursed, Metro government requires picture evidence and two estimates from “reputable business firms” that perform repair work.

Protesters Block Second Street Bridge, Demanding Justice For Breonna Taylor Monday, Jun 29 2020 

Protesters from groups including Black Lives Matter Louisville have blocked traffic on the Second Street Bridge between Louisville and Jeffersonville, Indiana.

Monday’s protest comes after more than four weeks of demonstrations calling for police reforms in the wake of the death of Breonna Taylor. Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency room technician, was killed by Louisville Metro Police officers in March while they were serving a so-called “no-knock” search warrant in the middle of the night. Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, fired a gun and hit one of the officers in the leg; he has said he was not aware they were police and thought the apartment was being broken into. Officers returned fire, hitting Taylor multiple times and killing her.

This post will be updated.

Tyler Gerth’s Father Remembers His Son At Vigil In Jefferson Square Park Sunday, Jun 28 2020 

yler Gerth, 27, is remembered as a believer in racial justice, and a loving kind-hearted person. Gerth was shot and killed in Jefferson Square Park on Saturday.More than a hundred people held a vigil in Jefferson Square Park Sunday night for Tyler Gerth – a 27-year-old photographer who was shot and killed Saturday night. Police say Gerth was struck by a bullet when a man opened fire in the park during a protest over the police killing of Breonna Taylor.

On Sunday evening during the vigil, many lit candles, some burned sage. Others placed flowers on the ground where Gerth died.

Gerth’s father, Chuck Gerth addressed the crowd.

“He had good friends of all colors,” Chuck Gerth said. “He supported the cause, he saw the injustices with Breonna, and so many injustices throughout the world.”

Gerth’s family said he had been at the park because of a belief in racial justice and a desire to photograph an important moment in history. Chuck Gerth said his son was driven to speak out against injustice, even as a young child.

“He’s always been like that,” he told WFPL News. “If he ever saw wrongs in our society, he wasn’t on the sidelines, he was in there and involved.”

Ryan Van Velzer | wfpl.org

A vigil at the place Tyler Gerth’s death. Gerth was was shot and killed by a gunman Saturday June 28, 2020, in Louisville, Kentucky.

Chuck Gerth said he had a lot of reasons to be proud of his son — a talented photographer and graduate of Trinity High School and the University of Kentucky. But Sunday was the proudest he’d ever felt.

“Reflecting on all the ways, just the way he turned out as a person, I’m really proud,” Gerth said. “He had a lot of accomplishments, graduated from UK and Trinity. But just the way he turned out as a man, he was a very loving, caring person.”

Police say the suspect in Tyler Gerth’s death is 24-year-old Steven Nelson Lopez of Louisville. He has been charged with murder and wanton endangerment in the Saturday night shooting.

Below is a statement from the Gerth family:

Tyler Gerth (27), was a beloved son, cherished brother, adored uncle to seven nieces and nephews and a trusted friend. We are devastated that his life was taken was from us far too soon. Tyler was incredibly kind, tender hearted and generous, holding deep convictions and faith. It was this sense of justice that drove Tyler to be part of the peaceful demonstrations advocating for the destruction of the systemic racism within our society’s systems. This, combined with his passion of photography led to a strong need within him to be there, documenting the movement, capturing and communicating the messages of peace and justice. While we cannot fathom this life without our happy, inquisitive, hardworking, funny, precious Tyler, we pray that his death would be a turning point and catalyst for peace in the city he loved so much. We ask for your prayers and that the Lord would draw close in our sorrow, but we also ask that his death is not just another statistic of senseless violence. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only light can do that.”

After Save A Lot’s Closing, Potential For Food Desert Grows In New Albany Sunday, Jun 28 2020 

Since the 1950s, residents of downtown New Albany have bought their food at 624 State St., which was originally a Kroger before becoming a Save A Lot. But on June 20, Save A Lot permanently closed its doors. And while there are large grocery chains like Kroger near the outskirts of town, the city’s core is now lacking a full-service grocery option.

“There’s so many of us over here that are very upset, because sometimes we don’t like the big stores,” said Kimberly Williams, who shopped at Save A Lot frequently over the last 12 years. “[Save A Lot] feels homey.  Other stores are big, crowded. I don’t like a crowd like that. I like to keep it simple. I know where everything is. That’s going to hurt.”

Williams lives in the nearby New Albany Housing Authority (NAHA) complex. Every two weeks or so, she would pull a wagon just over half a mile to shop, which would take roughly 30 minutes roundtrip.

One of New Albany’s Kroger stores is a little more than a mile away from the former Save A Lot. Though the increase in distance may seem minuscule, every extra step matters to elderly citizens like Williams. The difficulty is amplified by nearby hilly terrain and the fact that Kroger is located in a large shopping center surrounded by an expansive and busy parking lot, which makes the trip less pedestrian-friendly.

“That’s real rough,” Williams said. “You know what I mean? Because sometimes my wagon gets a little heavy. But you know, that’s how I do it… I’ll pull it home. I’m going to miss that. I am.”

John Boyle | wfpl.org

NAHA also has a residential complex on the opposite side of State Street from the former Save A Lot, known as River View Towers. That property is mostly occupied by elderly and disabled residents.

Those without mobility issues could make the two-block trip to Save A Lot in around five minutes. It takes over half an hour to get to Kroger.

While driving makes the trip much shorter, many NAHA residents don’t have personal vehicles. Instead, they rely on TARC buses. But with the rise of the coronavirus pandemic, some are hesitant to use public transportation.

“You got people right now that’s talking about or wondering how they’re going to get to the store,” said William Irwin, who started shopping at Save A Lot in 2007. “You know, a lot of us don’t have vehicles. And then with the COVID-19 popping off, people are leery about getting on the bus. So yeah, it’s a problem.”

‘Food Oppression’

The USDA identifies food deserts as neighborhoods that are more than one mile away from the nearest supermarket or grocery store in urban areas – or 10 miles in rural areas – and have poverty rates greater than or equal to 20 percent. One tract of New Albany east of downtown that has a population of 1,897 was already listed on the USDA’s interactive atlas of food deserts, which uses data from 2015.

With the closure of Save A Lot, four more tracts that meet the poverty thresholds could also qualify. Up to 13,500 residents of New Albany may now be living in food deserts.

The problem isn’t limited to New Albany. Sizeable portions of the Interstate 65 corridor in neighboring Clark County are also already listed as food deserts, affecting over 15,500 residents of Clarksville and Jeffersonville.

Lauren Ornelas, founder and executive director of the Food Empowerment Project, uses the terms “food apartheid” and “food oppression” to describe this landscape. She said that the issue is one that’s linked to demographic makeup more than geographic location.

“It tends to be communities that are Black and Brown and indigenous,” she said. “They have higher rates of dietary diseases, and these communities tend to have more fast food, convenience stores and liquor stores. Unfortunately, where these communities tend to get a lot of their food is going to be those convenience stores and liquor stores.”

Though there are now no full-service grocery stores within a mile of most of NAHA’s properties, there are at least three liquor stores within less than a mile. Some smaller convenience stores also operate in the vicinity.

But Ornelas said that her team has found that even those convenience stores and liquor stores that have goods like produce in stock may not have prices clearly indicated. This puts shoppers who don’t speak English at a disadvantage, she said.

Those factors put together can have a negative impact on the mental health of people who live in food deserts.

“It also does a number on their self-esteem,” Ornelas said. “In the focus groups we’ve done, they feel like they’re not worth it, that nobody cares about them. Nobody thinks they’re worth getting healthier food or produce that isn’t rotten, so it does take a toll on them mentally, as well.”

There is also a downside to other alternatives to neighborhood grocery stores, Ornelas added. While New Albany does have dollar stores, the offerings aren’t nearly as robust as a traditional grocery store, nor are pricing and routine product availability as steady and reliable.

Delivery services that allow customers to shop from their computer or phone are also not ideal replacements. In addition to issues with internet access, shoppers often prefer the in-store experience.

“For the community members that we spoke to, that wasn’t going to work for them,” Ornelas said. “They wanted to be able to pick up the fruit, smell it themselves, feel it, just like many of us want to. So why should people who live in this community be any different?”

One of the solutions Ornelas advocates for is people growing their own food. This allows them to no longer have to rely on a system that “wasn’t really looking out” for them to begin with, as Ornelas put it.

But for those who don’t have the land, time or other capabilities to grow their own food, Ornelas says worker-owned cooperatives are a potential option. The cooperative model would allow the ones living in the neighborhood to be in charge of operations and business decisions, thus allowing the profits to stay in the community.

“Jobs are going to be created and entrepreneurial skills will be something that the young people will have with them for the rest of their lives,” Ornelas said. “So those are the types of solutions we feel that not only hopefully the community can learn about and be interested in, but also that government officials will recognize what’s happening to their community and want to invest back into that community.”

For now, New Albany residents are eyeing potential paths forward. Some have discussed circulating a petition in an effort to highlight the importance of the issue to city officials.

William Irwin said that he’d personally like to see a Pic-Pac or a small Kroger take over the location. No matter who the next tenant is, Irwin hopes it happens soon.

1 Dead, 1 Injured After Shots Fired At Jefferson Square Park Saturday Night Saturday, Jun 27 2020 

Two people were shot, one killed, in downtown Louisville on Saturday night.

Multiple shots were fired shortly after 9:00 Saturday night in Jefferson Square Park and across the street at the Hall of Justice, according to Louisville Metro Police.

In a graphic video posted to Facebook by Maxwell Mitchell, a man appears to be seen holding a pistol and firing multiple times into the crowd of protesters gathered there. Jefferson Square Park has been the center of more than four weeks of protests for racial justice. One person is seen on the ground, bleeding.

In a news release sent at 11:30 p.m., LMPD spokesperson Lamont Washington said that one of the victims had died at the scene.

“Just about 9 p.m., there were reports of shots fired in Jefferson Square Park. Calls then came in that Sheriff’s Department personnel were in the park performing life-saving measures on a male who eventually died at the scene. A short time later, we got a report of another shooting victim at the Hall of Justice. That person was taken to University Hospital with non-life threatening injuries”

In an emailed statement, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer expressed sadness at Saturday night’s violence.

“I am deeply saddened by the violence that erupted in Jefferson Square Park tonight, where those who have been voicing their concerns have been gathered,” Fischer wrote. “It is a tragedy that this area of peaceful protest is now a crime scene. My thanks to the first responders who assisted at the scene. I will have more to say tomorrow, as additional information becomes available.”

Louisville Metro Police officers cleared the park, and said it would remain closed for the next several hours. Washington said LMPD would provide an update on Sunday morning.

This post has been updated.

‘American Freedom Fighters’ Fail To Show At Louisville Protest Saturday, Jun 27 2020 

Hundreds of anti-racism protesters filled Jefferson Square Park on Saturday morning in anticipation of an armed demonstration organized by a member of the Kentucky National Guard.

But as of 1 p.m., the group calling themselves “American Freedom Fighters” had failed to show. 

In Jefferson Square Park, peaceful protests featured chants against police brutality and speeches about personal experiences with racism in Louisville and across the country.

“I don’t think any white supremacist with a gun could deter me from protesting for Black lives, ever. I feel like it’s what I’m facing every day walking down the street,” said D.K., a Black Lives Matter protester from south Louisville. “I’m a Black woman in a hijab. I could die any second.”

The Louisville Metro Police Department set up barriers along Jefferson Street between Metro Hall and Jefferson Square Park to separate the protesters from counter-protesters. But the area reserved for the counter-protesters was mostly empty throughout the morning.

Ryan Van Velzer | wfpl.org

For weeks, Black Lives Matter protesters have been camped out at Jefferson Square Park, demanding accountability after the killing of Breonna Taylor by LMPD officers in March.

Several BLM protesters carried firearms on Saturday including rifles, shotguns and pistols. It was the first time WFPL reporters had seen protesters armed with long guns at Jefferson Square Park. One protester, who declined to be named, carried a loaded AR-15. 

“I’m out here to help protect my community,” he said, “This is my city. I’m born and raised here. I’m going to die here, odds are.”

Ryan Van Velzer | wfpl.org

About five miles outside downtown, a group of a dozen people — some armed and dressed in tactical attire — gathered at Thurman Hutchins Park. Originally, the group calling themselves the “American Freedom Fighters” had intended to march downtown to Jefferson Square Park  to “restore order,” said organizer Eli Eaton in a Facebook post. Eaton is also a member of the Kentucky National Guard.

However, on Saturday, Eaton said he called off his downtown demonstration to avoid escalating tensions. Members of the group said they were frustrated that police had viewed their demonstration as a protest. Eaton said he believes police had organized the protest area in such a way as to incite violence between racial justice demonstrators and his group.

Reporters Ryan Van Velzer and Jared Bennett contributed to this report.

Armed Protest Scheduled For Saturday Planned By Member Of The Kentucky National Guard Thursday, Jun 25 2020 

An armed counter protest to “restore order” in Louisville scheduled for Saturday is organized by a member of the Kentucky National Guard, according to social media posts.

“On the morning of June 27, armed freedom fighter patriots will march upon Louisville Kentucky to restore order,” the original post reads. “These Patriotic Americans will remain peaceful unless they find it necessary to defend themselves from opposition.”

The rally comes after weeks of protests against racism and police violence in Louisville after Louisville Metro Police officers killed 26 year-old Breonna Taylor in her home while serving a warrant. Gov. Andy Beshear activated the National Guard and sent members to Louisville to assist local law enforcement with the protests from May 31. The National Guard was withdrawn on June 2, the day after LMPD and Guardsmen shot at local restaurant owner David McAtee while enforcing a curfew. An investigation later determined McAtee was killed by a round fired by a member of the National Guard.

The event appears to be organized by a Facebook group called “American Freedom Fighters.”

In a Facebook comment, Eli Eaton identifies himself as the creator of the Facebook group and organizer of the march. Eaton’s LinkedIn account lists his occupation as a member of the Kentucky National Guard, as did his Facebook account, which has been deleted this week.

Eaton did not respond to a LinkedIn message seeking comment.

Maj. Stephen Martin, the director of the Kentucky National Guard’s Public Affairs Office, confirmed that Eaton is a member of the Kentucky National Guard but was not part of the deployment to Louisville earlier this month. Martin said the Guard was aware of the posts and has spoken to Eaton. Martin said Eaton was “not acting on behalf of the Guard, nor was he in uniform. So he’s exercising his right as a private citizen.” 

Martin said the post was not reflective of the National Guard, but that the National Guard informed Eaton his posts may be “bringing attention he may not want” to the gathering.

Eaton also posted a video to the Facebook group where he claims to have spoken to a Major with the Louisville Metro Police Department. Eaton said the LMPD was “one hundred percent in full support of what we’re doing” and that he would continue to coordinate with the agency.

“We’re going to do what we can, but we’re going to take direct orders from them. They tell us to do something, we’re going to do it,” Eaton said in the video.

LMPD spokesperson Jessie Halladay said in an email that LMPD has been in contact with the organizers of Saturday’s planned protest.

“LMPD personnel did reach out to organizers of this group planning to counter-protest this weekend to get information for our planning purposes, but in no way did LMPD express support for any disruptive actions being taken by this group or any other,” Halladay wrote. “We support everyone’s right to free speech and expression. Our role is to make sure that takes place in as safe an environment as possible.”

Mayor Greg Fischer also responded to the posts in a tweet Thursday afternoon.  

“We are aware of rumors suggesting that armed militia are coming to downtown Louisville this weekend,” the tweet says. “Our message is simple: We don’t need you here. Our focus is on facilitating peaceful protests.”

 

‘What a wonderful community!’ Purrfect Day Cat Cafe breaks one-day adoption record Thursday, Jun 25 2020 

Since it opened in 2018, the Louisville cat cafe has found forever homes for more than 2,500 cats and kittens. On Wednesday, 19 kittens were adopted.

        

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