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Family, Friends Remember 'Bikeman' Darnell Wicker

A crack in the concrete outside Anita Jones' apartment is still caked in dried blood.

The blood baked in the sun Tuesday morning, more than 30 hours after two Louisville Metro Police officers fatally shot Jones' longtime boyfriend, Darnell Wicker.

The details emerging the day after Wicker's death are painting a fuller picture of the incident that left one man dead and two officers under police department investigation.

The shooting occurred about 1:30 Monday morning outside an apartment complex in southwest Louisville. The officers at the scene were responding to an emergency call for an alleged domestic violence situation.

Police Chief Steve Conrad addressed reporters at the scene before daybreak. By Monday night, he'd held a formal press conference and released the body camera footage from the three officers at the scene.

By Tuesday afternoon, Jones and her daughter, both of whom witnessed officers fire multiple shots that killed Wicker, addressed reporters.

The new details provide context and insight for neighbors and others searching for answers, a call to action or peace of mind. But the details do little to take away Jones' grief.

Girlfriend Calls Police Killing 'Murder'

Tears filled Jones' eyes Tuesday afternoon as she answered reporters' questions for nearly an hour in a cramped conference room above a barbershop in Russell.

She sighed, closed her eyes and buried her face in a tissue when asked what she wants to come from the police department's internal investigation.

"I don't know," she said.

Jones said she'd dated Wicker for about 22 years. The two were in love, she said.

Police responded to a call made at Jones' behest, she said. Jones said she asked her daughter, Denita, to call police because she wanted Wicker to leave. She'd already told him to leave, but he lingered.

Now, she's second-guessing that call.

Wicker often stayed at the apartment with Jones. He helped her pay bills with money he earned by cutting grass, she said. It's unclear exactly why Jones wanted Wicker gone.

"He's hardheaded," she said.

By the time Denita was on the phone with police dispatchers, Wicker had retrieved a knife and a saw from inside the apartment, Jones said.

Wicker worked as a landscaper, and Jones said it's likely both items were his tools. She said he'd grabbed them in an effort to pack his things before he left.

Jones said Wicker never tried to hurt her. She'd never seen him get into a fight. And when the two were inside the apartment together, he never threatened her with the blades, she said.

"Not for one minute," she said.

Denita Jones told the dispatcher about the objects, and when police arrived on the scene, Wicker stood at the door holding both, she said.

Body camera footage shows that within seconds of arriving at the scene, Officer Taylor Banks ordered Wicker to drop the blades. Then, along with Officer Beau Gadegaard, he fired multiple shots, killing Wicker.

Wicker is hard of hearing, Jones said. And looking back, she said even if he did hear the officers' commands he "had no chance to even drop the weapon."

"That was murder, baby," she said.

Neighbors Knew Wicker As 'Bikeman'

A sign at the memorial outside Jones' ground-level apartment reads "RIP Bikeman."

"Bikeman" is a nickname Wicker acquired because he rode a bicycle all around the city. Oftentimes he'd pull behind a lawnmower and landscaping tools.

Jones said Wicker rode a bicycle as long as she can remember. That, she said, coupled with his daily work cutting grass and trimming trees, kept him fit and relatively healthy.

Wicker didn't take medication, Jones said. He didn't drink, either. Although she admitted Tuesday he "took a little crack every now and then."

Outside of his cycling, Wicker is widely known for cutting grass in the neighborhoods along Cane Run Road.

For years, he cut the grass behind George Hess' auto garage. Hess said Wicker would make quick work of the big yard. He admired Wicker's work ethic.

"Down-to-business person," he said. "Treated me with respect."

He gave Wicker some odd jobs working on the cars in the shop, he said. Hess also mentioned Wicker struggled to hear and worked hard to make sure he could help Jones pay the bills.

"Just a good guy," he said.

And like many people, including Jones and Police Chief Conrad, Hess has questions about Wicker's death.

He wants to know why police shot so fast and why they didn't use a taser.

"It ain’t like he was 500 lbs. and a taser wasn’t going to hurt him, he’s sort of a skinny guy," he said. "I just don’t see him running out on the police like that."

Rico Anderson echoed those questions. He considered Wicker a friend. Wicker helped him move to a new house a few months back. He cut Anderson's grass and his mother's.

Anderson, 32, drove to the scene of the shooting Tuesday to pay his respects.

He said he's watched a lot of police shootings through the lens of a body camera during the past few years. Some, he said, are clearly justified. Others are not.

Anderson said he struggles to accept the shooting that left Wicker dead as a reasonable use of force.

"It was like they instantly shot him," he said.

And he criticized the police officers in the body camera footage for not administering first aid to Wicker after he'd been shot.

"But I might be wrong," he said.

Conrad also raised that question during a press conference Monday. He said the investigation will "determine whether or not these officers provided the appropriate level of aid.”

Anderson said Wicker will be missed. He acknowledged the strained relationship between people and police, and said killing someone like Wicker only adds to the distrust.

"He could have been robbing, he could have been stealing, he could have been killing, but he wasn’t," Anderson said. "They took a good guy for no reason."

What's Next

The officers who shot Wicker are on administrative leave.

The third officer who responded to the call but did not shoot will continue working in the department's Second Division, Conrad said.

The department's Public Integrity Unit will wrap their investigation in about eight weeks, according to police. At that point, the case will be handed over to the Commonwealth's Attorney for consideration of any charges against the officers.

Once the Public Integrity Unit investigation closes, the department's Professional Standards Unit will take up the case to ensure all police protocol was followed.

The Louisville Metro Citizens Commission on Police Accountability will also have the opportunity to examine the investigation, Conrad said.

In a statement, Wicker's daughters commended Conrad for his "swift transparency."

They also responded to Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer's plea for residents to "trust the process."

"We ask that we don’t allow our appreciation of the good officers to exempt those involved in this incident from the consequences of their actions," they said.

Jacob Ryan is the managing editor of the Kentucky Center for Investigative reporting. He's an award-winning investigative reporter who joined LPM in 2014. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.