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Civil Rights Suit Filed Against LMPD For Fatal Shooting

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LMPD headquarters.

A federal civil rights lawsuit has been filed against Louisville Metro government, the police department and three police officers for the fatal shooting of a man in February.

The suit, filed by attorney Ned Pillersdorf Tuesday in U.S. District Court, claims police officers were "out of control" when they shot and killed William Young while responding to an alleged burglary call at an abandoned house near Churchill Downs.

Police body camera footage from the incident appears to show Young, 31, rush towards the officers when they encountered him on the second floor of the vacant, squalid home in the South Louisville neighborhood.

Two officers fired multiple shots at Young and he was pronounced dead at the scene.

The suit claims the officers used excessive force and "shot him multiple times with no legal justification."

Pillersdorf said Young "was often homeless, struggled with mental illness, addiction issues and occasionally resided with his mother."

He said at the time of the shooting Young was "squatting" in the abandoned home on Oleanda Avenue and was "likely sleeping" when officers "began shooting him without any provocation or justification."

"The ill-trained officers knew at the time of the shooting that Young posed no threat," the suit states.

A Louisville Metro Police spokesman declined to comment on the pending lawsuit.

A spokesman for Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer did not return a request for comment.

The suit seeks more than $18 million in damages and compensation.

The incident was the 28th police shooting by Louisville Metro Police since 2011, police data show. It was the first of 2017 — another man was shot in a vacant house in March.

The Officers

The officers involved in the shooting —  Russell Braun, Paige Young and Randall Richardson — were placed on administrative leave following the incident, which is police protocol. A department spokesman said all three officers are back on normal duty in the Fourth Division.

Shortly after the shooting, during a briefing with reporters, Chief Steve Conrad said it was unclear at the time if all three officers shot at Young.

One officer was injured during the shooting. The injury likely occurred when Braun, an eight-year veteran of the Louisville Metro Police Department, shot himself in the hand, Conrad said.

Braun has received commendation letters for overdose response action and for his assistance in locating a missing child, among other things. He’s been disciplined for being at fault in at least one vehicle accident, according to police records.

Young and Richardson both joined the police department in February 2015. Neither have disciplinary marks on their record. Richardson has earned commendation letters for volunteer efforts and for his response to a past shooting, among other things.

All three officers were assigned to the department’s Fourth Division at the time of the shooting.

The Victim

Young was homeless and had been arrested nearly a dozen times prior to his deadly encounter with police in February, Conrad said.

He’d been arrested on charges that include aggravated assault, domestic violence, trespassing and drug possession, the chief said.

Some of his family members viewed the body camera footage prior to its public release, said Christopher 2X, a community activist who assisted the family in organizing a news conference.

He said after viewing the footage, the family members went into an “emotional frenzy.”

2X said they questioned why officers opted to use lethal force against Young.

Louisville Metro Police standard operating procedure authorizes officers to use deadly force in defense of human life, including their own.

Local police policy also outlines a “progression of force,” which includes an escalating scale of use-of-force options. The scale ranges from the officer’s presence to deadly force, but officers are not required to utilize one option before moving to the next, the policy states.

In the body camera footage, officers search the first floor of the vacant home with guns drawn and flashlights illuminated. Officers repeatedly attempt to make their presence known, the camera footage shows.

As they reach the top of the stairs, Young is seen crouching near the edge of the frame. He quickly stands and moves towards the officers holding what appears to be an elongated metal object, the camera footage shows.

The officers fire multiple shots and Young falls back onto a pile of scattered debris covering the floor of the house. Camera footage shows officers handcuff Young’s bloodied wrists as he lets out muffled groans.

This story has been updated. 

Jacob Ryan is an award-winning investigative reporter who joined LPM in 2014. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.