As Attention on Police Violence Grows, Families Band Together To Seek Justice
The green house at the corner of 29th and St. Xavier streets is still scarred with bullet holes.
Larry Jordan points them out one-by-one as a crowd gathers on the sidewalk. Nearly everyone comes wearing a red t-shirt with a picture of Jordan’s son, Demonjhea, emblazoned on the front.
Demonjhea Jordan was killed by Louisville Metro Police in a hail of gunfire that erupted shortly after noon on April 24, 2018. Police officials allege Jordan shot at police, and the officers returned fire, one shooting through the windshield of his police vehicle as he approached the scene.
On Sunday, Larry Jordan shook his head as he examined the bullet holes -- painful reminders of the day his son died.
“We just don’t get it,” he said.
As attention on police killings intensifies in Louisville and across the nation, families like Jordan’s are being thrust into the spotlight as they seek answers and push the police to hold themselves accountable. Lengthy internal police investigations can keep families from being provided details about how their loved ones died. In response, some families file lawsuits in attempt to coerce the government agencies to disclose information or, at the least, take responsibility. Others turn to the media, holding press conferences to pressure agencies into being accountable. Nearly all cry out for justice.
But getting it isn’t always easy.
Jordan works as a truck driver and said he was “clueless” about the police investigative process in the beginning, when he started seeking out information. He quickly learned that getting that information wasn’t going to be easy.
Along the way, though, he’s gotten guidance from other families who have also had children or loved ones killed by the police. The local Black Lives Matter chapter connects the families and provides resources to educate families on the investigative process and how they can hold officials accountable, setting up group emails and text chains that are partly supportive, partly informative. In the coming weeks, the group will be highlighting victims of police violence in weekly press events around the city.
“It’s always a point for us parents that have been through it, to teach others the steps,” Jordan said. “Because if you miss a step, they’ll try to hide something.”
The Louisville Metro Police Public Information unit did not respond to a request for comment on Demonjhea Jordan’s case. The investigation is listed as open on the city’s online database of police shootings.
Jordan’s family filed a lawsuit against the officers involved and the city in September 2018, alleging the officers used excessive force.
Demonjhea Jordan was 21-years-old when he was killed. He is Black and the three officers, Joshua Weyer, Benjamin Dean and Kody Despain, as well as the detective involved in the shooting, Joseph Fox, are White, according to city records.
As police describe it, Jordan matched the description of a suspect who had committed an armed robbery of a nearby business. The officers attempted to stop him and he allegedly, “produced a handgun, fired multiple rounds.”
Trenton Jordan doesn’t believe his brother would shoot at police. He is 29-years-old and saw his younger brother nearly every day before he died. The two would play basketball or have intense battles on NBA2K, a video game.
“He always wanted to play with the Golden State Warriors, which was both of our favorite team,” he said. “And I’d let him go with them.”
The day before he was shot and killed by police, Demonjhea had come by Trenton’s house to visit with his then 2-year-old daughter. Trenton said his brother always wanted to be a fun, caring uncle. And he never failed.
“She loved being around him, he loved being around her,” he said. “He was a loving, caring person.”
Trenton said he hopes the attention on police violence taking hold across the country has some impact. He’s joined the protests in downtown Louisville, which have organized largely around the March killing of 26-year-old Breonna Taylor.
He said the two circumstances may be different, but the end is the same -- senseless killings of young black people.
He is hopeful change is coming, but isn’t totally optimistic that it's coming soon. Systemic change, in law enforcement and in the media’s portrayal of young black men, takes time, Jordan said.
“I just pray and hope that when all this is done and over with I get justice for my brother,” he said.
Justice, for this family and for other families who have lost loved ones to police violence, is punishment for the officers involved.
Natalie Malone, Demonjhea’s mother, said the officers should be fired, prosecuted and jailed.
Natalie Malone wore a red shirt with her son’s picture, held a poster and stood in front of TV news cameras just a few feet from where he was shot, pointing to the sky and promising that she’s going to keep fighting for justice.
“That was my only son,” she said. “They need to be held accountable ... no one is above the law.”