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. 


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

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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.


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.

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