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Louisville police officer who punched protester didn’t violate policies, internal investigators say

Louisville Metro Police Department investigators exonerated officer Aaron Ambers of violating de-escalation and use of force policies, even though Ambers was caught on video last year repeatedly punching a protester while he was restrained. 

As a result, David Mour, who’s representing demonstrator Denorver “Dee” Garrett, said he’s suing LMPD, some officials and the officers involved in his client’s arrest for malicious prosecution, assault and civil conspiracy. The original complaint filed last year only named  Ambers as a defendant. 

“So here we have a group of officers, one in particular, repeatedly punching a citizen who's on the ground with other officers sitting on top of him, repeatedly punching him in the face, which is completely adverse to their training, yet he didn't violate policy,” Mour said.

Ambers repeatedly hit Garrett at a demonstration last April while trying to handcuff him. Mour said he’s disappointed, but unsurprised that Ambers won’t face consequences. 

In a letter dated March 28, 2022, Police Chief Erika Shields wrote, “While the actions of the officers complied with policy, and their training was consistent with the practices at the time, based on the totality of the circumstances, these officers could have made better decisions.”

“But to lay the blame solely on Officer Ambers’ shoulders misses the mark,” she wrote. 

Shields also wrote Garrett is a registered sex offender who made comments indicating he was trying to get arrested. 

“Officer Ambers held concern that [Garrett] had not been searched for weapons and they could not see one hand, it was under his body,” Shields wrote. “Officer Ambers stated he administered several closed hand strikes to the head in an attempt to get Garrett handcuffed.”

Mour said Shields’ statement on the investigation is contradictory and outlandish.

“First of all, how can I get my hand out from under me when a bunch of cops are sitting on me? And second, that is not a proper use of restraint in any police department across the country,” Mour said. “It blows your mind when you read this stuff and their excuses. Not to mention, here we go again, down the rabbit hole of getting some of the foxes to investigate other foxes that have gotten into the chicken house.”

Garrett was arrested for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest during the April 2021 demonstration. The charges were dropped a few months later.   

Shields noted that, while LMPD’s standard operating procedure outlines situations that warrant use of force — passive resistance, active resistance, soft empty hand control and hard empty hand control — the SOP lacks definitions for what each actually entails. 

“While these terms are defined and trained in the academy, the absence of these definitions in the policy allows internal investigations to be more subjective,” Shields wrote. 

She recommended the sergeants who had prior knowledge of and oversaw the arrest receive formal counseling on the “criticalness of de-escalation and the totality of the impact of their decision making.” 

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