1 Person Dead, 1 Charged Following Shooting At Jefferson Square Protest Camp
A 24-year-old Louisville man has been charged with murder and wanton endangerment in the Saturday night shooting at Jefferson Square Park, where demonstrators had gathered, killing one man.
Louisville Metro Police say Steven Nelson Lopez fired into a large group of demonstrators, striking and killing 27-year-old Tyler Gerth.
According to the charges, after Lopez began shooting, he was struck by gunfire returned by protesters and suffered non-life threatening injuries.
Gerth is a photographer, a University of Kentucky graduate and godson of Courier Journal columnist Joe Gerth, according to the paper. Mayor Fischer said Tyler Gerth is a graduate of Trinity High School.
“As a fellow Trinity High School graduate, I want to recognize his family, share my deep sympathies with them [and] friends of the family for this act, that is really just difficult to comprehend why things like this happen,” Fischer said.
In a briefing Sunday afternoon, Fischer said the suspect had been involved in the protests for racial justice, but had been recently asked to leave by other demonstrators at the park after he became disruptive and engaged in fights.
Protester Christopher Wells confirmed this, stating that the man had been removed multiple times.
“We had to kick this same guy out five times,” he told WFPL News at Jefferson Square Park on Sunday. “Five. He's been locked up four. Metro keeps sending him out, so guess where he come at?”
Interim Louisville Metro Police Chief Robert Schroeder said at the briefing that Lopez is in police custody at a hospital where he is being treated for wounds.
Early Sunday morning, LMPD cleared the park, which has been the center of more than four weeks of protests for racial justice and is now considered a homicide scene.
Schroeder apologized for how the camp was cleared. He said he was “deeply sorry” over the way protesters’ gear was removed. He said the action was handled in a “manner less than our standards.”
Crews cleared the site using backhoes. Tents and other personal belongings were loaded into dump trucks and transported to a Metro waste management site on Meriwether Avenue. A release stated that individuals could retrieve their personal belongings later in the day, with some protesters noting that they had lost wallets, purses and other items of value.
Tyra Walker, co-chair of the Kentucky Alliance Against Racial and Political Oppression, said she had been a liaison of sorts between police and protesters. It frustrates her that police did not give protesters the opportunity to relocate themselves.
“Now, we have to go scavenge through things to find our belongings, and it is going to be a scavenger hunt, because you all should see what it looks like,” Walker said. “So, I'm very disappointed because they said they were trying to build relationships. And this is how you build a relationship, by throwing our things in the trash? They treated us like we were trash. We want better.”
Nonetheless, city officials made it clear in their briefing, protesters will no longer be allowed to camp out overnight at the park. Chief of Public Services Amy Hess cited an ordinance prohibiting tents or temporary shelters at the site. Anyone attempting to erect tents or shelters at the site will be warned and could be subject to citation, officials said.
City officials and demonstrators both described a chaotic scene at Jefferson Square Saturday night.
In a graphic video posted to Facebook by Maxwell Mitchell, a man appears to be seen holding a pistol and firing multiple times into the crowd of protesters gathered there. One person is seen on the ground, bleeding.
Wells and other protesters have no intentions of letting the shooting or the increase in enforcement from LMPD deter them from pushing forward.
“We need donations, water, supplies and tables, because we're not going anywhere,” he said. “Because this is our city. We are the people.”