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Activist Punched During Arrest Sues LMPD Officer

A protester who was repeatedly struck in the face during an arrest this month in downtown Louisville is suing the officer he said punched him.

Denorver “Dee” Garrett filed a lawsuit Tuesday in Jefferson Circuit Court against Louisville Metro Police officer Aaron Cody Ambers, alleging civil battery, unlawful imprisonment and infliction of emotional distress. The lawsuit alleges the officer’s conduct was malicious and intentionally designed to harm Garrett and only named Ambers, not the LMPD. 

“You can’t accidentally or negligently punch someone in the face like Officer Ambers did,” said Garrett’s attorney, David Mour.

Louisville Metro Police arrested Garrett in mid-April on charges of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest after Garret stood in a crosswalk blocking traffic with a large wooden cross. Cell phone video shows officers take Garrett to the ground after which an officer repeatedly punches Garrett in the face at least four times. 

When WFPL News asked LMPD to confirm the officer’s name, a spokeswoman replied by email saying, “Chief [Erika] Shields has initiated a Professional Standards investigation into the incident at Jefferson Square Park thus we will withhold additional comment on this pending investigation.”

LMPD Police Chief Erika Shields said the officer’s behavior “raises serious questions and is not consistent with LMPD training”. Mour says he has independently confirmed the officer was Ambers. 

“To me, he is a danger to the community, in my opinion, and I think we have a right to know who he is,” Mour said. 

Mour said he won’t sue officers in their official capacity because a court would likely consider the officer’s actions protected under qualified immunity, which prevents officers from being held personally liable for misconduct while performing their duties, in most instances. 

The officers won’t be able to use that defense if he sues Ambers in his individual capacity, Mour said. 

LMPD spokeswoman Beth Ruoff said the department doesn't comment on pending litigation.

Louisville police have initiated an internal investigation they anticipate will take a month to conclude, she said.

"Although we are unable to comment on the particulars of this case, we would like to explain that the timeline of the investigation is driven by multiple factors; to include, reviewing all body-worn camera footage, interviewing all of the officers who were on scene, interviewing any witnesses who are willing to provide a statement, and going through a supervisory review process," Ruoff said in an emailed statement.


This story has been updated. 

Ryan Van Velzer is the Kentucky Public Radio Managing Editor. Email Ryan at rvanvelzer@lpm.org.

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