For Kentucky State Police, Lots of Shootings Draw Little Scrutiny Thursday, Aug 19 2021 

John Whitlock for The Marshall Project and KyCIR

Photos from Dermot Tatlow/laif/Redux, Kentucky State Police, Mike Belleme, Getty Images

This article was published in partnership with The Marshall Project, a nonprofit news organization covering the U.S. criminal justice system, and the Lexington Herald-Leader. Sign up for The Marshall Project’s newsletter, or follow them on Facebook or Twitter

 

PINE TOP, Kentucky Just before sunset on October 22, 2015, 53-year-old Stephen Brock was walking up and down the narrow gravel road near his trailer home, yelling, cursing and praying.

Neighbors later told police that Brock was erratic — nice one day, agitated the next. Many were aware he suffered from mental illness. But when they heard Brock making threats as he paced that evening, carrying what some thought was a gun, a neighbor called 911.

Kentucky State Trooper Luke Pridemore drove alone to the scene in rural Knott County. He found Brock hiding behind a bush, shouting that the government wasn’t going to take his land, and threatening to shoot, according to police records. The trooper returned to his patrol car and retrieved an M16 assault rifle. 

Brock kept one of his hands behind his back and Pridemore thought it held a gun, he later told investigators. He fired three shots, killing Brock.

But Brock had no gun, only a length of rusty chain with a padlock on the end, which investigators found near his body.

J. Tyler Franklin

Stephen Brock was killed by Kentucky State Trooper Luke Pridemore outside his home in Pine Top, Kentucky, in 2015.

Brock was the third person Pridemore was involved in killing in less than 17 months, according to state police records, which don’t indicate that he faced any consequences for the deaths.

Such a string of shootings is unusual; studies have found that only a quarter of police officers reported ever firing their weapons, and just 15% of those who did were involved in more than one incident. 

Reached recently by telephone, Pridemore, 36, declined to comment.

Pridemore’s track record helps illustrate the low level of accountability at the Kentucky State Police, whose officers shot and killed at least 41 people from 2015 through 2020. That is more fatal shootings than any other law enforcement agency in the state, according to an investigation by The Marshall Project and the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.

In fact, Kentucky troopers have killed more people in rural communities than any department nationwide, according to our analysis of data compiled by the Washington Post.

(Read: ‘Shooting First And Asking Questions Later‘)

No Kentucky trooper was prosecuted for any of the 41 deaths we examined. About a quarter of those killed were not armed with a gun when state police shot them, and a majority were suffering from addiction or mental health problems.  

The state police investigate their officers’ shootings with no outside oversight, a practice many police departments are abandoning and which some criminal justice experts and prosecutors say is problematic.

“I don’t think it should be done,” said Dave Stengel, the former commonwealth’s attorney in Louisville, citing the potential for conflicts of interest. “Everybody knows everybody else.” 

Troopers don’t wear body cameras, although the Kentucky State Police says it is exploring the possibility of employing them. The lack of video evidence allows shootings to escape scrutiny, some experts say. We found some conflicting accounts from officers and witnesses about how fatal police encounters played out.

The state police declined our request for an interview. But the agency’s commissioner, Phillip Burnett Jr., defended its work, saying in a statement that he is “committed to protecting the integrity of all investigations, interactions with the public and our state officials as we conduct law enforcement in the right way.”

Sgt. Billy Gregory, head of public affairs for the state police, said that all shootings by its officers are reviewed by prosecutors who may take cases to grand juries. The agency “is committed to being transparent while ensuring the integrity of the investigation,” he said in a statement. He did not address questions about Pridemore.

The state agency that oversees the state police is “committed to full and fair investigations of every officer-involved shooting, including those involving the Kentucky State Police,” said Kerry Harvey, secretary of the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet.  

There is no comprehensive government database of police shootings, and the Kentucky State Police would not provide a list of people shot to death by troopers. Using a combination of publicly available data and state police records, The Marshall Project and KyCIR built our own database of fatal shootings by troopers.

Three Killings, No Wrongdoing

Troopers patrol wide stretches of Kentucky and are regularly dispatched to people’s homes. More than half the people killed by state police during the six-year review period were at a residence when they were shot, and almost three-quarters of those killed were armed with guns. 

J. Tyler Franklin

Luke Pridemore at a Zoom court hearing May 2021

Pridemore’s first deadly encounter involved an armed man inside a home on Tranquility Lane in a little community near Hazard. In May 2014, six months after Pridemore was hired as a trooper, he was backing up an officer who reported being threatened by Larry Smith. After troopers arrived, Smith set the house on fire, according to police records.

Smith emerged holding a gun in his right hand and refused commands to drop the weapon, the records show. Four state troopers on the scene fired a total of 29 shots. Twelve were from Pridemore’s M16

A grand jury declined to indict the officers. 

The next fatal shooting Pridemore was involved in drew questions from witnesses about whether it was necessary — and whether the troopers were careful enough to protect bystanders. Neither of these questions was addressed by the Kentucky State Police inquiry into the death of Michael Asher. 

On May 3, 2015, a county constable reported hearing gunshots from Asher’s camper on Doctor’s Row near Hazard. Pridemore was among the troopers who responded.

Neighbors said later that Asher was known for shooting at coyotes to protect his cats.

Troopers said that Asher pointed a gun at them from inside the camper. Pridemore and two other officers fired their weapons. Asher fell dead in the doorway.

A neighbor, Brian Carter, watched the shooting with his wife through a window of their nearby home. They couldn’t see Asher clearly because he was inside the camper. Carter said state police lined up “like a firing squad” with guns drawn. He heard troopers tell Asher to put the gun down several times before opening fire. 

None of the troopers involved responded to requests for comment.

Six of the shots troopers fired at Asher went into a neighbor’s home, where some plowed through the living room and others were stopped by a brick fireplace, according to police records. Three residents were inside, including a man who used a walker. 

The residents were not evacuated until after the shooting, according to police records. None of the officers were criminally charged.

Police gunfire that endangered bystanders cost a Louisville police officer his job last year. Brett Hankison fired shots that traveled into an apartment adjoining Breonna Taylor’s in March 2020. Hankison was the first to be fired, and the only officer involved in killing Taylor to face criminal charges: three counts of wanton endangerment for the bullets in the neighbor’s apartment. He has pleaded not guilty; his trial is scheduled for February.

From 2015 through 2020, Louisville Metro Police shot and killed 20 people, according to an analysis by KyCIR, about half the number fatally shot by Kentucky State Police over the same period. Louisville employs about 300 more officers than the state police’s 740 troopers, and the city’s police department receives far more public scrutiny for its actions than the state police.

Greg Belzley, a lawyer who has sued the state police several times, said he often gets contacted by people about alleged abuse by Kentucky troopers. But many are too intimidated to file a lawsuit, he said, or don’t have the financial resources to hire a lawyer.

“If it happens here in Louisville, that’s one thing,” Belzley said. “But if it happens where we say, ‘out in the state,’ it’s something entirely different.”

When it comes to police shootings in rural areas, he said, “There’s a sense that this is all better forgotten.”

Policing experts say state police escape scrutiny partly because video footage of killings by troopers in rural communities is rare. And there are sometimes differences between the way officers and witnesses describe events.

A single officer responded to a 911 call about Kenneth Huntzinger on February 7, 2017. Huntzinger had taken too much of the insomnia drug Ambien, his wife told police, and was hallucinating, acting aggressively and trying to drive away from their central Kentucky home in his pickup truck.

COURTESY OF WILLIAM HUNTZINGER

Kenneth Huntzinger

When a state police sergeant arrived, he pulled his weapon and in less than one minute, shot Huntzinger while his wife and son looked on, according to court records. Huntzinger died a week later.

Sgt. Toby Coyle told investigators he fired because Huntzinger was driving toward him and he was afraid he would be run over. Coyle declined to comment.

When the Madison County commonwealth’s attorney took the case to a grand jury, it did not indict, describing the force used as regrettable but justified.

But in a civil-rights lawsuit Huntzinger’s family filed, they said Coyle was not in danger of being hit by the truck. The fatal shot entered Huntzinger’s body after going through the driver-side window. 

In court filings, Coyle’s lawyers said he had to shoot Huntzinger in part to protect other drivers he might encounter on the road.  

A federal judge found “genuine issues of material facts” in the case and declined to dismiss it; it is set for trial on November 15. 

J. Tyler Franklin

Kenneth Huntzinger’s former home in Richmond, Kentucky, where he was killed by Sgt. Toby Coyle in 2017.

The state police model has been to shoot first and ask questions later, said John Tilley, who from 2015 through 2019 was head of the Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Cabinet. Though the agency needs more oversight, he said, the legislature has been hesitant to scrutinize it. 

“There’s an unwillingness to address some of those tough issues,” Tilley said.

Internal Investigations, No Prosecutions

The Kentucky State Police created a special unit in 2017 to investigate state police shootings, as well as those of many local police departments.

The Louisville Metro Police Department turned to the state police to examine its shootings in the wake of Breonna Taylor’s killing.  

But state police have been far slower to release body camera footage and the names of city officers involved in fatal shootings than the Louisville police department, which used to provide information within 24 hours. 

A spokeswoman for the Justice and Safety Cabinet said state police have “vast knowledge and experience” and are “committed to being transparent while ensuring the integrity of the investigation.”

The state police have been criticized for their failure to release public records. The Kentucky attorney general found in July that the agency had violated the state’s open records law when its officials denied a request reporters submitted for this story.

The state police violated Kentucky’s open records law more than any other government agency, according to a 2018 review by television station WDRB of state attorney general’s opinions on records disputes. 

The state police also told us that at least nine investigations of officers’ fatal shootings going back as far as 2015 were still “open” and therefore not available to the public. The agency reversed itself after we supplied proof that the cases were closed.

Of the 41 fatal shootings by state police, The Marshall Project and KyCIR were able to identify 22 cases that prosecutors presented to grand juries. None of those officers were indicted. In 10 other cases, prosecutors decided that the evidence didn’t merit grand-jury consideration. What happened in the rest is unclear.

Pridemore’s Downfall

COURTESY OF HAYLEY EVERAGE

Stephen Brock with his daughter, Hayley Everage, in 2012. Brock grew the rose for his daughter.

After Luke Pridemore shot and killed Stephen Brock in 2015, Brock’s daughter, Hayley Everage, thought the trooper would be held accountable once a grand jury heard the case.

Everage said her father had bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. He had been admitted to a psychiatric hospital six times since 2008, police records show. 

But her hopes were dashed when a grand jury declined to indict.

“It was like what happened with my dad didn’t matter,” Everage said. 

The neighbor who called 911, Rebecca Pratt, watched from her front porch while Pridemore killed Brock.

“Honestly, I don’t see why he shot at him,” she said. “With somebody in his state of mind, you need to have more patience.”

Though the shootings apparently did not result in discipline for Pridemore, other incidents did. 

In February 2017, he was suspended without pay for 60 days for an auto collision the previous year, according to police records. He was driving his agency-issued Chevy Tahoe nearly 90 miles an hour, and the other driver was seriously injured.

When Pridemore faced firing, it was over an off-duty assault, according to police records.

His cousin had been involved in an altercation at Karen Noble’s home in Knott County. At 1 a.m. on August 28, 2017, Noble called 911 to report an intruder: Pridemore. 

According to a civil lawsuit filed by Noble and her teenage son, Landon Noble, Pridemore was dressed in police “tactical clothing,” with hard plastic knuckles under black gloves, and armed with a handgun. He entered the home without permission and struck Landon Noble in the face before slamming Karen Noble’s hand into a door and pushing her to the ground, according to the lawsuit. 

Pridemore told state police investigators the Nobles assaulted him first and that he did not have a gun on him at the time. 

An internal investigation substantiated the gist of Noble’s account, police records show. About eight months after the incident, State Police Commissioner Richard Sanders recommended that Pridemore be fired. In July of 2018, Pridemore resigned.

In May, Pridemore pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault and misdemeanor criminal trespass and was placed on two years’ probation. The Nobles’ civil suit against Pridemore is pending.

After his career as a trooper ended, Pridemore was involved in another incident. In June of 2020, he pleaded guilty to charges including misdemeanor assault and misdemeanor resisting arrest, after he struck a woman and a local law enforcement officer at a Letcher County bar, court records show. He was placed on two years’ probation and ordered to undergo counseling.

According to his LinkedIn page, Pridemore still maintains a connection to law enforcement. He is the owner of Prideheart Logistics, LLC, a process server and consulting business, which lists “use of force procedures” as one of his areas of expertise.

“I have a strong record of accomplishments,” his profile says. “My biggest attribute: Execution; I get things done.”

R.G. Dunlop is an investigative reporter with the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting. Alysia Santo is a staff writer at The Marshall Project. Weihua Li, a data reporter for The Marshall Project, provided data analysis and reporting. A grant by the Fund for Investigative Journalism supported KyCIR’s work on this project.

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A Year Before Fatal Encounter, LMPD Changed It’s Policy On Shooting At Moving Vehicles Monday, Dec 28 2020 

The recent Louisville Metro Police shooting of Brian Allen Thurman has gotten attention as the first fatal police shooting since the city announced it would turn these investigations over to the Kentucky State Police.

But this is also the first time an LMPD officer has shot and killed someone in a moving car since the agency changed its policy on shootings involving moving vehicles late last year.

LMPD Officer Harry Seeders pulled Thurman over in the Portland neighborhood around 10:30 p.m. on November 22. The car Thurman was driving was reportedly stolen. Seeders’ body camera shows that Thurman turned off the car and showed Seeders his hands, but he then turned the car back on.

There was a commotion on the other side of the car — it sounds like a woman’s voice yelling — and Seeders approached the back of the car, now in reverse, yelling “stop.” Thurman hit him with the car, and Seeders began to fire his weapon into the Honda CR-V.

He fired five shots. Thurman died at University of Louisville Hospital that night. LMPD said a woman fled the scene.

Before November 2019, Seeders’ actions would have been measured against LMPD’s policy, which prohibited shooting at or from a moving vehicle unless returning gunfire from the car. Even then, the policy stressed, officers should only shoot at a moving vehicle “when it does not create an unreasonable risk of harm to innocent persons.”

But last year, LMPD changed that policy to allow police to shoot at or from moving vehicles in response to deadly force. A moving vehicle itself is not necessarily deadly force, the policy says, unless it’s being used in a “vehicle ramming attack” — anytime a driver is trying to injure or kill someone with their car.

LMPD spokesperson Sgt. John Bradley said the old policy may have been ambiguous when compared to the agency’s broader use of force policy, which allows an officer to use deadly force when they believe they or another person face an immediate threat of death or serious injury.

Many police departments have loosened their policies on shooting at moving vehicles in recent years, in response to terrorist attacks across Europe and the United States where cars or trucks were driven into crowds. But some experts say these rare events will never outweigh the risk to public safety of allowing police officers to shoot at moving vehicles.

“That opens the door to an officer saying, ‘I thought he was going to run me over so I shot him,’” said Geoffrey Alpert, who studies policing tactics at the University of South Carolina. “That’s the exact reason the prohibiting policy is in place, because that excuse was used far too often, and people that shouldn’t be dead are dead.”

Shooting Car Turns It Into ‘Unguided Missile’ 

Since the agency was founded during city-county consolidation in 2003, LMPD forbade shooting at moving vehicles, except to return gunfire.

The former policy was in line with policing best practices from organizations like The Police Executive Research Forum, which is leading the city’s search for a new police chief. PERF recommends that police departments prohibit shooting at or from moving vehicles unless deadly force is being used against the officer — by a means other than the vehicle itself.

That’s in part because if a car is being used as a deadly weapon, shooting the driver may not actually make the situation safer for the officer, bystanders or any passengers.

“If you shoot me, and I’m driving the car, now you’ve turned it into an unguided missile,” said Alpert. “It could come to a stop, but just as easily it could run into a house and kill 10 people.”

Plus, there’s often a much simpler solution at hand, Alpert said: “The officer could take two steps backwards and get out of the way.”

The push to prohibit shooting at moving vehicles started in New York City in the 1970s. When the NYPD banned the practice, police shootings there declined more than 40%, and have continued to decline since.

John Timoney, the deputy commissioner of the NYPD at the time, directly attributed the decline to the policy change.

“If a cop can give a valid reason why he or she shot at a moving car (I have heard a few in my time), it can be treated as an exception to the rule,” Timoney told PERF. “But in the large majority of cases, a strict rule against shooting at cars will not only save lives, it will keep our cops out of trouble, out of the press, and God forbid, out of jail.”

Like Louisville, the NYPD has also loosened its policy in recent years to permit officers to shoot at moving vehicles that are being used as part of a ramming attack. But the manual specifies that this clause is meant to address an “extraordinary event” like when an officer needs to shoot at a moving vehicle “to terminate a mass casualty terrorist event.”

Both the NYPD and the Washington, D.C. police departments consider a ramming attack as a car being driven into a crowd or a building.

In Louisville, a ramming attack is anytime a car is, or aims to be, driven into a building, person, crowd or another vehicle.

When Thurman backed the vehicle toward Seeders, that could be construed as a ramming attack in Louisville, but it wouldn’t be in New York or Washington, D.C.

Bradley said LMPD considers a threat to one person’s life to be as significant as a mass casualty event, and doesn’t want to put a number on how many people must be in danger before the police are allowed to use deadly force against a moving vehicle.

LMPD policy does specify that officers should “avoid tactics that could place them in a position where a vehicle could be used as a weapon against them.”

New Policy Part Of Local Ordinance 

The current LMPD policy isn’t just enshrined in the agency’s standard operating procedure. Metro Council has turned it into local ordinance — and some local leaders are pushing for it to become state law.

Council members Jessica Green and Brandon Coan sponsored a bill in October that codified some of LMPD’s existing use of force policies, including the policy on shooting at a moving vehicle. Coan said they worked with LMPD, the County Attorney and community members to reach consensus around eight use of force policies, from chokeholds to de-escalation to requiring officers to intervene if they witness excessive force.

There was a lot of debate about many of these measures, Coan said, but they found an easy consensus around the moving vehicles policy.

The language in the ordinance is effectively the same as what’s currently in LMPD’s policy: police officers can shoot at moving vehicles if the vehicle is “being used to strike a person, a crowd, another vehicle or a building or structure when capable of causing mass injuries, serious physical injuries, or the death of another person.”

The ordinance, which passed 15-10, is intended to ensure that a future police chief can not roll back these use of force policies.

“We are saying that the processes and procedures that are in place right now, will always be important and that’s no matter if Robert Schroeder, Yvette Gentry or Mike Jones is the chief of police of the city of Louisville,” Green said during one of the council meetings. “In my mind, these things never need to change.”

If LMPD wanted to return to the old policy that said officers shouldn’t shoot into moving cars unless being fired on, Coan said, the Metro Council would probably have to change the ordinance to reflect that.

The policy as it’s currently written also got the endorsement of the city’s Criminal Justice Commission. This group of Jefferson County criminal justice stakeholders included this policy on its slate of legislative proposals that it has endorsed for the upcoming legislative session.

That list of policies then goes to the Jefferson County delegation, as well as the chairs of the judiciary committee, to encourage them to file legislation to codify it in state law.

“It’s a policy that other police departments around the country have adopted, so it’s not a new idea that originated with the criminal justice commission,” said Scott Furkin, the executive director of the Louisville Bar Association and chair of the legislative committee of the commission. “But it’s certainly one we found merit in.”

Correction: An LMPD officer killed Brian Allen Thurman on Nov. 22. The date was incorrect in a previous version.

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New Evidence In Shelby Gazaway Shooting, But Family Has Same Questions Monday, Sep 14 2020 

When Jefferson County Commonwealth’s Attorney Tom Wine announced he wouldn’t prosecute the officers who killed Shelby Gazaway, he called the facts of the shooting “straightforward but tragic.” 

Gazaway had fired his gun inside the Portland Kroger last November.

As two officers shouted at him, he pointed his weapon in their direction. 

And because the officers believed Gazaway posed an imminent danger to themselves and other customers, Wine said, they were justified when they shot and killed him.

Legal experts who reviewed the circumstances of the shooting were not surprised by Wine’s conclusion, since police are given enormous leeway when it comes to making life and death decisions. That’s especially true, the experts said, when responding to a chaotic, fast moving situation like the one at the Kroger, where more than three dozen 911 calls had been placed to report an active shooter.

But the Gazaway family has questioned the Louisville Metro Police Department’s tactics and commitment to transparency since the start. In body camera footage, his family saw him walking toward his car and officers shooting the 32-year-old Black man, without announcing themselves or telling him to drop his gun. For months, they’ve asked LMPD to show them the rest of the footage, including unedited surveillance video police said would confirm LMPD’s assertion that Gazaway put officers and other customers at risk outside the Kroger. 

LMPD recently released that evidence, but the family says it hasn’t provided closure. 

The evidence shows that the officers arrived at a chaotic and frightening scene. After a fight with another man, Gazaway fired his gun into the ceiling, breaking a water line. He fired several shots more into the ceiling near the exit of the store, just seconds before two officers pulled up in their patrol car. 

The surveillance footage is jumpy, and doesn’t include any audio, but it captures the exchange of gunfire between the officers, shooting from behind concrete pillars, and Gazaway, who was by then already near his car.

It does not clearly answer the major questions the family has posed since the shooting:

Who shot first, Gazaway or the officers? And if it was the officers, could he have known he was firing back at the police?

Provided by Gazaway family

Shelby Gazaway

“The nagging question is why Gazaway acted so violently on that night,” Wine wrote in the last paragraph of his letter to LMPD. “Unfortunately, that is a question neither I, nor Mr. Gazaway’s family, who loved the son, brother and uncle they knew as a warm and caring person, can answer.”

That is not the question that’s been nagging Shelby Gazaway’s aunt, Sharon Gazaway Bell, all these months, as they wrestle with the answers that might never come. 

“It seems like to me the nagging question is, why did the police react so violently?” she said.

‘Other PIU matters’

The day after Gazaway was killed last year, LMPD officials held a press conference, as they typically do after their officers fire their weapons in the line of duty.

Major Jamey Schwab of LMPD’s Public Integrity Unit said the body camera footage would show that Gazaway “turned towards the officers and began firing numerous rounds at them” when the officers, Patrick Norton and Alexander Dugan, returned fire.

Then-chief Steve Conrad released the body camera footage, which showed one officer turn on his flashlight and shout “hey” three times before the gunfire started. Conrad admitted the footage was obscured, so it wouldn’t show much of Gazaway in that exchange. But what the videos did show, Conrad said, is that “policing is a very dangerous job.” 

“What you’ll see is how quickly things happen and the split second types of decisions that officers often face,” Conrad said.

That’s where the questions started for Gazaway Bell, Gazaway’s aunt. The video did not appear to show her nephew firing at officers first, and she questioned LMPD’s version of events. “Truth be told, if there wasn’t the body cam footage that put a question in the minds of anyone who watched it, we would not be here,” Gazaway Bell said. 

Conrad promised a thorough investigation. The family waited, and hired an attorney.

The LMPD completed its internal investigation and turned it over to Wine in December. By January, though they were waiting for Wine’s decision, the officers were back on regular duty — and received a commendation for their “acts of heroism” that night. In June, officer Norton shot another suspect, and was placed back on leave.

Wine’s letter to LMPD declining prosecution came in July, eight months after the shooting.

It opens with an apology for the delay in reviewing the Public Integrity Unit’s findings. “Unfortunately, this matter was presented during the holiday week, followed closely by the COVID-19 pandemic. Then other PIU matters arose,” Wine wrote.

Wine was likely referring to the March 13 shooting of Breonna Taylor. His office initially charged Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, with attempted murder after he fired at officers executing a search warrant at Taylor’s home. Walker said he believed the officers were intruders breaking in, and LMPD officers returned fire, killing Taylor, a 26-year old Black woman and ER tech.

Wine’s office reviews every investigation conducted by the Public Integrity Unit, and would have typically decided whether the officers who shot Taylor would face charges. But amid a firestorm of national attention, Wine recused himself from the case, and later dropped the charges against Walker.

In the months leading up to Wine’s decision in the Gazaway case, protests against police shootings became a daily occurrence. LMPD officers and National Guardsmen went into the West End to break up a party and, after firing pepper balls at David McAtee’s barbecue stand, he fired a shot. When the two agencies returned fire, McAtee was killed. 

Meanwhile, the Gazaway family held press conferences with others whose loved ones were killed by the police to try and raise awareness. They filed a lawsuit against LMPD in June to compel the release of evidence from the shooting, including the surveillance footage from Kroger. 

Louisville Metro Council President David James brought up Gazaway’s case while the council considered a resolution encouraging LMPD to increase transparency.

“The fact that the police department can’t produce a video for the family of a man who just got killed in a police action is unacceptable. It’s just unacceptable,” James said before the council passed the resolution in early August. LMPD says it gave the Gazaway family access to case files a few weeks later, on August 29.

What The Evidence Answers, And Omits

Last week, LMPD released an 8-gigabyte case file, with thousands of pictures, transcripts and summaries of interviews with officers and witnesses, and videos taken from the scene, to KyCIR. It did not originally include the Kroger surveillance footage, which LMPD said was left out of the original file in error.

The evidence shows Gazaway entered the store at about 6:03 p.m. Just minutes later, according to witnesses and police descriptions of the surveillance video, Gazaway struck another man, who then pulled a knife. After they wrestled, Gazaway pulled a gun and fired into the ceiling, hitting a water line. 

The surveillance footage shows Gazaway pointing a gun into the ceiling with his right hand again as he approached the exit of the store.

Twelve seconds later, in the parking lot, the footage shows Gazaway raising his right hand in the direction of the officers. On body camera footage, that happens almost simultaneously with the sound of gunshots, but it’s unclear who fires first.

Wine’s letter doesn’t definitively answer that; the officers didn’t in their testimony, either.

Witnesses told police they saw Gazaway shoot towards the store and toward officers, who were positioned near the exit. Ballistic evidence shows gouges in the pillar the officers hid behind from bullets fired by Gazaway. Four spent shell casings were found near Gazaway’s body; 16 were found where Norton and Dugan were positioned.

Officer Dugan told investigators in an interview more than a week after the shooting that he did not see whether Gazaway or his fellow officer shot first, because he was getting his rifle from the trunk of the squad car.

Norton said in his interview that he saw Gazaway “just saunterin’ out” of the store after a bystander pointed him out to the officers.

Norton said everything happened very quickly after that.

“I don’t know exactly what time he shot or I shot but I know I saw a flash and it was just an instant, like, boom boom,” Norton told an investigator at the time.

Both officers mentioned they’d reviewed the body camera footage before their interviews.

When asked for clarification, Jeff Cooke, a spokesperson for the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office, said in an email that “Gazaway fired at police first.” He also said “surveillance footage and witness testimony also indicates he fired outside before police arrived,” though there’s no indication of that in the video and police didn’t recover any shell casings other than those found next to his body.

When asked if the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office had evidence that explicitly shows Gazaway shooting outside of the store or firing the first shots towards police officers, Cooke referred KyCIR to LMPD; an LMPD spokesperson declined to comment due to pending litigation. 

Based on the evidence provided by LMPD’s Public Integrity Unit, Wine concluded that Gazaway’s actions inside the store would justify, at minimum, a felony charge of wanton endangerment in the first degree, a class D felony that could carry up to five years in prison.

Officers Norton and Dugan “were justified in using deadly physical force against Mr. Gazaway” because of the threat he posed to officers and bystanders, he wrote.

“No charge, either felony or misdemeanor, will be sought, nor will this matter be presented to the Jefferson County Grand Jury,” Wine wrote.

LMPD’s policies stipulate that officers should give a verbal warning before using deadly force “if feasible.”

LMPD policies also say officers can use force at any level they think is necessary, and don’t have to wait until a suspect uses force first.

Although the Public Integrity Unit investigation is closed and the officers were found not to have violated the law, an LMPD spokesperson said the Professional Standards Unit investigation to determine if officers violated LMPD standards is still open.

It’s unclear how often LMPD officers have been found to violate policy after shooting investigations, or how many of those investigations are still open. LMPD’s own data on such shootings has large gaps and leaves out important details of high profile shootings, a KyCIR investigation found.

Mayor Greg Fischer elaborated in a recent letter to a community activist: he said that, since January 2018, LMPD’s Public Integrity Unit has investigated 25 police shootings. Fourteen of those investigations have been completed and closed, though the letter doesn’t provide the outcome. Eight other investigations have been completed, but have not closed because they are pending in court or awaiting a decision by the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office or Attorney General’s Office. Three shootings are still under investigation.

‘Cops have this leeway’

Officers who responded to the Kroger that night were responding to an active shooter call — and that means they were unlikely to be held criminally responsible for shooting the suspect regardless of who fired first in the moment, said Walter Signorelli, an adjunct professor and lecturer at John Jay College of Criminal Justice who spent 30 years at the New York Police Department.

“A private citizen has a much higher standard, but the cops have this leeway,” Signorelli said. 

Even if officers make a mistake, Signorelli said the law gives officers the discretion to make life-and-death decisions if they feel the “reasonable” need to defend themselves or others.

“You could always bring a civil lawsuit saying, ‘Well, you should have taken other precautions or something,’” Signorelli said.  

But that would not be for the Commonwealth’s Attorney to decide.

Nicole Gonzalez Van Cleve is an associate professor at Brown University who has researched the relationship between prosecutors like the Commonwealth’s Attorney and police departments. Gonzalez Van Cleve says the criminal justice system is designed in such a way that gives police “control of the narrative” before the case even gets to a prosecutor. “That’s really what should alarm us,” Gonzalez Van Cleve said.

In cases like the Gazaway case, due to the limitations of the video and Gazaway’s death, important details about that narrative might always be unresolved.

To Wine and LMPD, it’s not complicated: the officers killed Gazaway because he was presenting an immediate threat to the safety of officers and bystanders. 

Gazaway’s family looks at the same evidence and sees Gazaway — who had no criminal record — on his worst day, killed in what they call “an ambush.”

“From what we have seen, they never identified themselves, and they didn’t try to de-escalate in any way,” Gazaway Bell said. “Isn’t there some responsibility on their part to try and de-escalate?”

That narrative is the difference between Gazaway surviving to face the consequences, or being killed in the parking lot.

“The law is not written to have police be the judge, juror and executioner. If someone is accused of a crime, we’re supposed to charge them, we’re supposed to take them to court,” Gonzalez Van Cleve said. “But what we’re seeing is that the police have so much power on the front end and we never get to decide on these cases.”

Shelby Power

Gazaway’s family found out the officers wouldn’t be charged when they got a call from a television reporter last month.

J. Tyler Franklin

Semone Stephenson Carter

The police just recently returned the car Gazaway was driving to his mother, Semone Stephenson Carter. It was riddled with bullet holes and torn up from the investigation.

The family still wears neon green t-shirts with his face on it that say “Shelby Power.” LMPD says it released the case file to Gazaway’s family in late August. The family can’t bring themselves to watch the surveillance footage from outside the store, but their attorney has reviewed the video.

The family feels the officers violated Gazaway’s civil rights by not identifying themselves or de-escalating, and they’re considering filing a civil rights lawsuit against LMPD.

Nine months after Gazaway was killed, Stephenson Carter sat in her house with her daughter, Sterling Gazaway, as family and friends from church milled around. Autumn decorations were already on the kitchen table. 

The family usually celebrates this season. September kicks off a stretch of birthdays that runs up to Shelby’s, which is a few days before what will be the first anniversary of his death.

Stephenson Carter had still one more question, one that the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office can’t answer.

“We always ask ourselves, why us?”

Stephenson Carter said that there were some questions they would probably never get answers to. But, she said, the family would continue to lean on their faith, and stand strong.

Contact Jared Bennett at jbennett@kycir.org.

The post New Evidence In Shelby Gazaway Shooting, But Family Has Same Questions appeared first on Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.

LMPD Officers Given Commendations, Back On Patrol Before Shooting Investigation Is Complete Wednesday, Jul 1 2020 

It was around 6 p.m., but the late autumn sky was pitch black when Louisville Metro Police Department officers Patrick Norton and Alexander Dugan responded to a call of an active shooter inside a Kroger in Portland.

As the two officers ran toward the front door of the Kroger with guns drawn, a bystander pointed the officers to a man in a red hoodie in the parking lot. Officer Norton yelled out — “Hey!” — and took cover behind a pillar. A hail of gunfire erupted. At least five bullets struck and killed Shelby Gazaway.

It all happened in less than 40 seconds.

Norton and the other officer were immediately placed on leave after the Nov. 7, 2019 shooting, and a Public Integrity Unit (PIU) investigation began, as LMPD policies require.

What exactly happened in those 40 seconds, and whether the officers’ actions warrant criminal charges, is still being determined. The investigation is still considered open, according to the LMPD.

But the officers have already received commendations — including nominations for the department’s Medal of Honor — for their response to the Kroger incident, where they killed Gazaway, a 32-year-old Black man. And Norton is back on patrol.

On June 2, Norton shot someone else: a 25-year-old White man in the East End who had allegedly pointed a gun at officers, and who survived the injury. 

Norton has been placed back on administrative reassignment. History indicates he may be back on patrol again before the internal investigation into that shooting is complete.

LMPD data show that police shooting cases often remain open for months or years. The Gazaway shooting is one of at least 37 shootings since 2011 that are still under investigation. The department has closed only one of its PIU investigations into police shootings in the last two and a half years, according to LMPD’s database.

With cases stretching on for years, the family of Shelby Gazaway says the handling of PIU cases acts as a roadblock to transparency. And Gazaway’s family was shocked to find out Norton was back patrolling Louisville neighborhoods, since their own attempts to learn more about the events that lead to Gazaway’s death have been blocked due to the open investigation.

“We would assume that if Patrick Norton was out to shoot somebody last week, that means the investigation is over,” Sharon Gazaway Bell, his aunt, said during a June 7 press conference the family held outside the Kroger. “So if they have already closed the investigation on (Norton) and found him to be innocent, why won’t they release what they found to the family?”

Officers under PIU investigation are placed on administrative reassignment in order to keep potentially dangerous officers off the street and avoid complicating the inquiry. The investigation’s findings aren‘t public until the case is closed.

The Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office reviews the cases to decide whether charges will be filed against officers, or if the investigation cleared them of wrongdoing, according to LMPD’s standard operating procedures. If charges aren’t warranted, the Commonwealth’s Attorney will send a confirmation letter to LMPD, and the officer can return to duty.

Jeff Cooke, a spokesperson for Jefferson Commonwealth’s Attorney Tom Wine, said the case review of the case is “near completion.” 

Wine’s office has not sent a letter clearing the officers of potential wrongdoing, but officer Norton was placed back on regular police duty, anyway. 

 LMPD did not respond to questions about the current investigations and the criteria the department uses to allow officers to return to regular duty, so it’s unclear how many officers listed in LMPD’s 37 open cases are still on leave.

KyCIR has raised questions about the report that contains the data on open cases. The “officer involved shooting statistical analysis report” published in early June contained numerous inaccuracies about police shootings and omitted some case information about high-profile deaths. But LMPD has not responded to questions about that report or corrected it, so it’s the only data currently available on the agency’s investigations into police shootings.

LMPD said it would need 60 to 75 days to fulfill to KyCIR’s request for a list of officers who have been placed on administrative reassignment as well as whether and under what criteria they have returned to duty.

Unanswered Questions

When Shelby Gazaway stopped at the Kroger on West 35th Street, he was driving his mother’s car so he could fill up the tank while he ran some errands for her. The car was already full of groceries from Sam’s Club.

Shelby Gazaway and his mother, Semone Stephenson Carter. Courtesy of Stephenson Carter

That’s the kind of guy he was, his family says: A homeowner, member of the Bates Memorial Baptist Church, and family pillar with no criminal record.

“To know Shelby was to love Shelby,” said his mother, Semone Stephenson Carter. “He was a hard worker. He was very, very ambitious. You could almost ask him to do anything.”

Which makes the LMPD’s version of events from the night Gazaway was killed even more difficult for the family to swallow.

The day after the shooting, LMPD officials held a press conference to lay out what allegedly happened the previous night. There was a fight inside the Kroger between Gazaway and another individual, who pulled out a knife, said Maj. Jamey Schwab, commander of the special investigations unit. Schwab said witnesses saw Gazaway fire several gunshots into the ceiling, causing a water line to burst.

Then-Police Chief Steve Conrad said he was “personally grateful for the brave and swift response from our officers, because this could have been a very different press conference today if not for their efforts.”

Conrad said Gazaway came out of the Kroger firing at bystanders and officers Dugan and Norton. 

The officials then played body camera footage that wasn’t as clear-cut as LMPD’s version of events.

The footage shows Dugan and Norton arriving on the scene and shouting at Gazaway, who was walking into the parking lot. The officers duck behind pillars as they shout, “hey,” repeatedly. Gazaway appears on the camera for less than two seconds. He appears to be holding something in his right hand and to look over his shoulder while walking away from the officers. They never identify themselves as police or tell him to drop his weapon until after firing several rounds, according to the body cam footage. And when gunshots ring out, it’s not clear on the video who fired first.

First responders tried to save Gazaway, but he was pronounced dead at the scene.

LMPD says they interviewed the individual Gazaway allegedly fought with inside the store, but the department has yet to provide any information to the family about the individual or what he said during the interview.

Martina Kunnecke was inside Kroger that night. She said during the family’s June 7 press conference that Gazaway’s actions before police arrived scared her; she didn’t elaborate. But she didn’t feel like Gazaway “deserved to be gunned down at the end of that night.”

Kunnecke said officers should have tried to de-escalate the situation when they encountered Gazaway outside.

“We do not see evidence that Mr. Gazaway had the gun pointed when he came out front,” she said “It may have been; many of us believe that it was not, and until we have evidence that he actually was aiming at the crowd coming out, there are a lot of questions to be answered.”

Search For Accountability

J. Tyler Franklin

Semone Stephenson Carter

Back in November, the Gazaway family simply wanted to know what happened in the minutes before Shelby Gazaway was shot and killed. 

Gazaway Bell watched Conrad’s initial press conference where he showed the only body camera footage that has been made available. The footage left her and the rest of the family unconvinced of the police narrative.

“All of this stems from the fact that, what Conrad said, standing at that podium, in no way matched what we saw on the video,” Gazaway Bell said.

They met with members of the Public Integrity Unit and asked to see other video evidence LMPD had, such as surveillance footage from Kroger, that allegedly showed Gazaway firing at officers.

“There are TV screens in the room, so we said, ‘Okay, can we just see what happened? … Let’s just watch it with you. And they said that we would be able to do that after the investigation was finalized,” Gazaway Bell said.

Months went by with no answers. In December, the family hired attorney Laura Landenwich to try to obtain information about the investigation and prepare for a possible civil rights lawsuit. But they only have a year after the shooting to do so. 

Landenwich’s subpoenas and open records requests seeking forensic reports, witness statements and the rest of the footage from the investigation have all been denied because of the open PIU investigation. The family and Landenwich say they believe the department is using the open PIU case as a way to run out the clock.

The family sued LMPD on June 25 in an attempt to compel the department to release those records. Landenwich said in the suit that LMPD failed to offer meaningful explanation of how the disclosure of the document could cause harm to an ongoing investigation in some “significant and concrete way,” as the law requires.

“There cannot be accountability without transparency. And there can’t be transparency until Louisville Metro Police Department starts complying with open records laws and telling families what has happened to their loved ones,” Landenwich said. “Regardless of what the facts are, we just want to know.”

More than seven months after the shooting, LMPD still has Stephenson Carter’s car, which Gazaway drove to the Kroger. They told her they couldn’t return it until after the investigation was closed.

Return To Duty

Although the case is still under review by the commonwealth’s attorney, both officers involved completed a “return to duty qualification firearm training” on January 29, almost three months after the shooting, according to LMPD personnel files. It’s clear Norton returned to duty, since he was involved in the June shooting, but LMPD didn’t respond to questions about when he returned to duty, or whether Dugan is also back on patrol.

The day before that training session, each received a letter of commendation for their actions the night of the fatal shooting. The letter says they responded to a shooter firing “indiscriminately” in the Kroger. The commendation letter also informs the officers they have been nominated for the Medal of Honor.

“You are to be praised and recognized for your exceptional bravery,” the commendation letter reads. “You placed your own lives at risk of serious physical injury or death confronting the shooter and engaging in a deadly fire fight when the shooter began to fire his weapon at you.” 

The nomination form also notes that video of the incident is “locked due to a PIU investigation.”

To Stephenson Carter, the fact that the department awarded the officers a commendation letter before closing her son’s case and letting her family know more about what happened that night is like rubbing salt in her wounds.

J. Tyler Franklin

Semone Stephenson Carter

“Why can’t we have closure? Why can’t we just call it what it is?” Stephenson Carter said. “If you’re wrong, man up. Accept the fact that you’re wrong. If we’re right, give us that peace… Prove it to me that Shelby did anything wrong other than to protect himself and get out of harm’s way.”

Nicole Carroll, the director of LMPD’s victim services unit, emailed the family’s attorney three days after the family held their press conference. “Officer Norton’s return to duty is an internal personal [sic] matter and the decision of the LMPD is beyond the investigator’s scope of knowledge,” the email said.

The email also reiterated that requests for evidence were denied because the case is considered “open and active.”

“We all say justice”

According to LMPD’s operating policies, officers are placed on administrative reassignment when they are involved in use of force actions or motor vehicle collisions that result in death or serious physical injury. During that reassignment, LMPD policy states that “police powers are limited and (officers) may be reassigned to desk duties or relieved from duty entirely.”

Officers can return to duty when they are directed by the Assistant Chief of Police, after meeting any one of the following criteria: A recommendation of LMPD’s mental health professional, a release by a physician, the status of the administrative or legal review of the incident, meeting firearms qualifications or “given circumstances.”

LMPD did not respond to questions about this policy and the criteria used to release officers from administrative reassignment.

At the very least, Gazaway’s family wants to see the rest of the evidence in order to better understand what happened the night he was killed and possibly clear his name. Stephenson Carter thinks her son’s race played a role in the officer’s reaction, and she is doubtful that the officers who killed her son will be arrested, even if it turned out they acted inappropriately. 

But she hopes that, in this moment, with the world seemingly more attuned to police violence against Black people, they might get answers. They decided to hold their press conference as protests against police violence and the killing of Breonna Taylor hit their second week, and the week after David McAtee was shot and killed by law enforcement in the West End. They shared the microphone with the family of De’mon’jhea Jordan, who was killed by LMPD in April 2018.

“You know, we all say justice. And I know justice can be something broad, but I do want them officers to be accountable for what they did,” Stephenson Carter said. “It’s unbelievable how some people can get away with so much — and some people can’t.”

Correction: The date Officer Norton shot another suspect was incorrect in a previous version. It was June 2, not June 1.

The post LMPD Officers Given Commendations, Back On Patrol Before Shooting Investigation Is Complete appeared first on Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.

LMPD Report On Police Shootings Doesn’t Name Breonna Taylor, David McAtee Wednesday, Jun 17 2020 

Once or twice a year, the Louisville Metro Police Department releases data on incidents when an LMPD officer fired their weapon or was fired upon.

It’s a step towards transparency that many other police departments have not taken; however, the most recent report contains several omissions and errors that policing experts say limit the dataset’s usefulness.

The report, dated June 10, includes an entry for the shooting death of Breonna Taylor, but her name is not in it. Two men shot by police this month, David McAtee and another man they haven’t named, are also left out, though the new report was issued because LMPD officers were involved in new shootings. Three individuals killed by LMPD in 2018 are also omitted from the update.

The analysis inaccurately indicates that no police shootings occurred over a seven-year period, skewing the 3.7-a-year average of shootings it claims. It also includes those years in its assessment that shootings result from 0.00002% of LMPD’s citizen contacts.

(Click this link to download the report.)

Representatives from LMPD and the mayor’s office have not responded to questions submitted Monday about the database.

David Harris, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, says the report from LMPD is a step in the right direction, despite its flaws, and he applauds LMPD for releasing some information.

No national database of police shootings currently exists. The Washington Post and the Guardian maintain databases of fatal police shootings, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation has created a voluntary program to collect data on use of force by police officers.

But the irregularities in LMPD’s report underscore the need for a national standard for collecting data about police shootings, Harris said, so that the public can better understand one of the most extreme powers of government.

“The public quite simply has a right to know when agents of the Commonwealth of Kentucky are using, or attempting to use, deadly force on its citizens,” Harris said. “We should know that, as members of the public. Here we are as Americans walking around essentially blind to this problem until [media] step into the breach.”

The LMPD issued the latest report on its website after nearly two weeks of widespread protests prompted by the death of Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman shot and killed by plain-clothes detectives serving a no-knock warrant at her apartment. The report also came 10 days after law enforcement shot and killed McAtee at his barbecue stand in the West End. 

Over the last two weeks, the refrain from protesters has been, “Say her name: Breonna Taylor.” After McAtee’s death, protesters began chanting his name as well. Neither is named in this data.

Database Structure Could Obscure Hurt Bystanders

The report includes a database of police shootings going back to 2011. Entries detail the name, race and sex of the suspect and officers involved, and a narrative description of the event. None of the columns indicate if the suspect was the same person who shot at — or was shot by — police.

The narrative for March 13 says that officers executing a search warrant “were met by gunfire from within the residence.” 

“Multiple officers returned fire. One subject was taken into custody and another subject was killed during the incident,” it said. 

Kenneth Walker is the named suspect, and he told police he fired the shot that hit one detective in the leg. He was not shot when police returned fire. Taylor, the person killed in the police shooting, is not named.

Harris said it appears the database is structured to focus on the individual who is the target of enforcement. He said structuring the data this way isn’t necessarily a problem, but it could gloss over key information when a bystander is killed.

“If you key your data to the target of your enforcement and somebody else is killed, you are going to lose information that’s important — not the least of which is the fact that a different person was killed,” Harris said. “That, in itself, is an important piece of data.”

Taylor family

Breonna Taylor, here in December, would have turned 27 on Friday. Her friends and family remember Taylor as a caring person who loved her job in health care and enjoyed playing cards with her aunts.

That’s similar to the circumstances of Taylor’s case. Walker said he believed they were being robbed when he shot at plain-clothes officers entering the dark apartment in the middle of the night. Taylor, who had been sleeping, was killed in the hallway. Walker was initially charged with attempted murder and assault, but Commonwealth’s Attorney Tom Wine announced late last month he was dropping the charges, pending further investigation by the FBI and Kentucky Attorney General’s office.

The LMPD report is dated the day after the agency released a nearly blank, inaccurate incident report that listed Taylor’s injuries as “none.” LMPD later issued a statement saying the inaccuracies were due to a problem with the reporting program that created the file.

Missing Cases And Rise In Police Shootings

The report also includes statistical data on shootings by month and year, going back to 2003.

This data says no “officer-involved shooting” cases were opened from 2003-10, though a KyCIR review of media reports found LMPD officers shot at least 10 people in those years.

LMPD’s report would indicate that its officers have been involved in 68 shootings since 2003. Nearly half of the shootings in that timeframe have occurred since 2018. 

It breaks the number of shootings out by division, though it’s unclear if that reflects where the shooting occurred or which personnel was involved.

The suspect was Black in 63% of those shootings, according to the report.

John DeCarlo is a professor at the University of New Haven and former police chief of Branford Police Department.

DeCarlo said that gap from 2003 to 2010 could skew any analysis of the data. But, DeCarlo said, the data LMPD has released after 2011 clearly shows a rise in police shootings in recent years.

“What we are seeing is this big spike, and you have to ask yourself why. Why is it going up?” DeCarlo said.

Last year, LMPD said it opened investigations into 16 incidents where an officer shot at suspects or was shot at, the highest number by far since 2011. So far this year, LMPD has already recorded eight police shootings.

DeCarlo said police departments should collect more data and use the information they have to determine why shootings appear to be on the rise in Louisville. 

“Any transparency is certainly a step in the right direction. The US as a whole is way behind the data curve,” DeCarlo said. “Police are the only organization in the United States that can not only take away your freedom, but use lethal force on you.”

According to LMPD’s report, internal investigations are still open for at least 37 shootings. But the data omits several cases.

In Likely Formatting Error, Some Deaths Left Out

Three people killed by LMPD in 2018 were not included in LMPD’s most recent database report. 

In February 2018, LMPD officers shot and killed two men riding in a car after someone in the car shot at police. Billy Ray Riggs and Alexander Simpson were killed in the shooting, but only Simpson is included in the database.

Benjamin Kennedy was killed after firing at LMPD officers in November 2018 and is not on the list.

Raad Fakhri Salman, who was killed in July 2018, is also not included. 

Salman and Kennedy were included in previous versions of the report, including one released in May. 

LMPD didn’t respond to questions about it, but it appears those names may have been left off during the conversion process. These cases were the last on the list in 2018, and the June 10 report is the first LMPD released in a PDF format instead of an Excel spreadsheet. 

LMPD’s report includes eight police shootings so far this year, but only included the narratives for six.

The narrative description of the June 1 shooting of David McAtee is not included in the report. Two LMPD officers and two Kentucky National Guard members shot at McAtee when they went to 26th and Broadway to break up a crowd violating curfew. Police said McAtee shot at officers; the LMPD officers who shot back did not activate their body cameras, in violation of LMPD policy. 

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer fired then-LMPD Chief Steve Conrad following the news that there were no body cameras. The investigation determined a National Guard member fired the round that killed McAtee.

Louisville police shot another person the next day: an armed 25-year-old white man in the East End, after he appeared to reach for a gun. LMPD has not yet named the man, and that narrative is also not included in the report. He survived the shooting.

Harris, the University of Pittsburgh professor, says even if these omissions are the result of an honest mistake, they undercut the usefulness of reporting data in the first place.

“It’s good that they are doing this, but it could certainly be more useful and you don’t want it to hide things, even if that’s completely inadvertent,” Harris said. “If the objective here is to be transparent and to inform your community, you don’t want to have the list broken out in a way that does that even if that’s not intended.”

Contact Jared Bennett at jbennett@kycir.org.

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