Man Shot by Louisville Police Was ‘Lost Boy’ from Sudan

Deng Manyoun
Deng Manyoun

Fleeing violence and civil war in Sudan, Deng Manyoun came to the USA with the so-called “Lost Boys of Sudan,” a group of orphaned and displaced ethnic youths, according to Louisville Sudanese community leaders and caseworkers.

Manyoun, who was shot by a Louisville Metro Police officer on Saturday, was resettled in Nashville, around 2001 as a young man and moved to Louisville in 2008 to be near a relative who later moved to another state, acquaintances said.

But Manyoun, an ethnic Dinka, struggled. For years, they said, he abused alcohol and racked up a long series of arrests. He was intermittently homeless. He couldn’t seem to find work. In April, he was taken to a state mental hospital after acting suicidal, said Matur Reclow, chairman of the South Sudanese Community of Kentucky.

When Reclow picked up Manyoun, now 35, from the psychiatric hospital, a caseworker told him that Manyoun was “depressed and feeling like he had nowhere to go,” he said.

“I tried telling him, ‘You can turn your life around,'” Reclow said.

Manyoun — whose name is spelled slightly differently, as Manyuon, in court documents than it is in police reports — was shot to death in an altercation on Fourth Street with Officer Nathan Blanford. Surveillance video shows Blanford getting out of a squad car and talking to Manyoun, who appeared unsteady on his feet. Manyoun then walks out of the picture and re-emerges with a flagpole that he then swings at Blanford. The video shows Blanford firing his weapon, leading to Manyoun’s death.

Police leaders have said the officer appears to have acted in self-defense.

Reclow said Manyoun spoke broken English but often used a translator in court. He called him a normally quiet man whose actions may have been rooted in his struggles and frustrations. Others who knew him said he could be belligerent when he drank.

“His problem was drinking. When he drinks, he likes to fight,” said Benjamin Lual, 35, of Louisville, who said he grew up in the same village as Manyoun in southern Sudan.

While many lost family in Sudan’s civil war, Lual said he believes that Manyoun lost touch with his parents when he fled, never knowing what became of them. He had no close relatives in Louisville.

Darko Mihaylovic, an official with Catholic Charities Migration and Refugee Services, said “the history of Sudanese young boys — they had gone through terrible things. While many are successful, receiving college degrees and all, a small number have problems, including with substance abuse.”

Sam Latio, a case manager at Catholic Charities who is also from Sudan and knew Manyoun, said that when Manyoun was stopped he was on “his routine. He lived in a shelter … He would walk … (to see) a friend lived in Old Louisville.” There, Reclow said, he would often pass the day drinking.

Police arrest records list multiple addresses, including “city at large,” apartments in Old Louisville and a shelter for homeless men. Police said Saturday that Manyoun lived in the 1200 block of Brook Street.

Linda Romine, a spokeswoman for St. Vincent de Paul, said the group’s records showed he last stayed at its emergency overnight homeless shelter on South Jackson Street in May, but had sought shelter in cold weather between December 2014 and March 2015.

Natasha Ahmed, manager at Bottled Liquors, said it was well known in the area that Manyoun was Sudanese and a refugee who had a mental illness or trauma due to the conflict in that country.

Described as quiet by those who knew him, Manyoun’s long list of arrests highlights moments of self-endangerment and violence against police and others.

That trail begins in June 2002 when he was cited for reckless driving without a license, according to Nashville court records. Twice that year he was charged with DUI. That winter, he was sentenced to a year in jail on two counts of sexual battery.

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SOURCE: The (Louisville, Ky.) Courier-Journal – Chris Kenning and Matthew Glowicki

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