Community members and activists are questioning a Louisville Metro Police officer’s use of deadly force against an African man in Old Louisville on Saturday afternoon.
But Police Chief Steve Conrad said the man, who he said was thought to be an African man in his mid-30s, was shot twice in self-defense after he allegedly picked up a metal flag pole and swung at the officer outside a convenience store.
The officer confronted the man after responding to a call about an assault on a woman in the area, and the man had a brief conversation with the officer before walking away, Conrad said.
But the man then picked up a metal flag pole in front of the store and swung at the officer, Conrad said.
“The officer retreated and continued to shout commands to drop that flagpole — this man was using as a weapon,” Conrad said. “He swung at the officer. Our officer fired two shots to defend himself.”
The man was transferred to University of Louisville Hospital, where he died from his injuries, Conrad said.
Conrad refused to answer any questions from the media at the news conference, saying everything at this point is preliminary.
The officer has been placed on administrative leave while the police department’s Public Integrity Unit investigates, he said.
But tensions were high as neighborhood residents stopped to stare and nearly two dozen police vehicles cordoned off the sidewalk where the altercation took place.
Ashley Belcher, an activist with the group Ferguson to Louisville, said that her group was demanding that police immediately release video evidence from the public safety camera at the site of the shooting.
“Their entire case is that he charged the officer and he was responding to an assault,” she said. “If that is the case, they need to prove to us that lethal force was necessary.”
Metro Councilman David James, a former FOP president who represents the area, said he encourages releasing the video in a “timely manner.”
At the scene, a number of residents said they felt that the recent controversies over police shootings of black men had now come to Louisville.
Kenneth Williams, who was questioned by police and said he was an eyewitness to the altercation, said the man did not swing the pole at the officer. Others at the scene, who refused to give their names, repeated that allegation.
Williams said the officer had his hand on his gun while questioning the suspect. Williams also said he thinks the officer made the man feel threatened shortly before the man picked up the pole.
“I’d feel scared too if he was trying to talk to me with his hand on his gun,” Williams said.
The police will not be answering any more questions until Wednesday, Conrad said.
SOURCE: The Courier-Journal – Roberto Roldan, Phillip M. Bailey