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Commonwealth's Attorney: No Need For External Investigation Of Fatal Police Shooting

It's unlikely an external investigation will be assembled to review the 2016 police shooting that left a 57-year-old Louisville man dead in his girlfriend's doorway.

Local activists in Louisville have called for an independent, external investigation of the shooting for months. They fear an investigation based solely on evidence gathered by the police department will lack the integrity and accountability necessary to ensure a fair and just outcome for the family of Darnell Wicker, the man killed seconds after two Louisville Metro Police officers arrived on the scene in response to a domestic violence call.

Earlier this week, activists made a plea to the Commonwealth's Attorney, Thomas B. Wine, to appoint a special panel to conduct their desired external review.

But in a letter sent Tuesday afternoon, Wine dismissed the need for such a review.

"There are no statutory, professional, or ethical reasons which would necessitate our office calling in a third-party to conduct an investigation into Mr. Wicker's death," Wine wrote.

The call for independent investigations into police shootings is gaining momentum across the country. Police departments are facing intense scrutiny for instances in which they use deadly force and the investigations into those incidents.

For example, the President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing -- which LMPD officials have praised and publicly adopted --  encourages “external and independent criminal investigations in cases of police use of force resulting in death.”

Such investigations “will demonstrate the transparency to the public that can lead to mutual trust between community and law enforcement,” the report states.

Wine, however, promised in his letter that his office's review "will be thorough and impartial."

"Our office has a team of prosecutors, including myself, reviewing this matter," he wrote. "That team represents a wide range of race, gender, age and experience."

A spokesman for the Commonwealth's Attorney declined to make Wine available for follow-up comments. He also did not provide a timeline for which the investigation into Wicker's death would be completed.

Carla Wallace, a lead organizer with the local activist group Showing Up For Racial Justice, which is spearheading the public cry for an external investigation, said in an interview Wednesday morning that she'd like Wine to rethink his decision to not call for an external review of the shooting.

"This is an opportunity," she said. "An independent investigation would go a long way towards helping with people's confidence in these investigations."

Wallace said such an investigation could also help repair the eroding public trust in law enforcement.

Wicker, who was black, died after being shot multiple times by two white police officers. The shooting occurred in August 2016. It was was captured on body camera footage, which was released shortly after the incident.

The two officers who shot and killed Wicker, Taylor Banks and Beau Gadegaard, are on administrative leave.

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.

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