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Lawsuit by protester punched during arrest now includes city officials

Some judges are releasing young people facing charges to protect them from the spread of COVID-19.
Airman 1st Class Joseph Barron
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A gavel rests inside the court room of the 100th Air Refueling Wing base legal office at RAF Mildenhall, England, May 28, 2019. The attorneys in the legal office offer commanders legal advice and also provide services like notaries, power of attorneys, wills and legal assistance to Team Mildenhall. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joseph Barron)

The city, Louisville Metro Police Department and its chief now face litigation after an LMPD investigation exonerated an officer who repeatedly punched a protester during an arrest last year.

Officer Aaron Ambers was cleared of violating the department’s de-escalation and use of force policies, even though he was caught on video last April repeatedly punching a restrained Denorver “Dee” Garrett while trying to handcuff him. 

Garrett’s attorney, David Mour, recently expanded an existing lawsuit against Ambers to include Metro Government, the entire police department, other officers involved in the arrest and LMPD Chief Erika Shields.

“Saying that ‘our officers aren't trained very well,’ and ‘this officer wasn't properly trained, but it's not wholly his fault, so therefore, we're not going to make any findings of misconduct against him,’ it’s just crazy to say,” Mour said. “If you haven't complied with your training, particularly when it comes to the use of deadly force or force against a citizen, but failure to comply with that training is not a policy violation, it begs the question of: Why are we wasting taxpayer money to train these police officers?”

The amended lawsuit brings forward new claims, including abuse of process and civil conspiracy, as well as gross negligence and reckless conduct. It also accuses Shields of failing to supervise and train officers — and alleges all defendants violated Garrett’s civil and constitutional rights under the color of law. Both of those claims could carry federal penalties. 

Mour said he sent the information and materials related to the case to the Department of Justice in hopes that the federal agency will bring criminal charges against the officers involved. The DOJ has been investigating LMPD since last year for potential civil rights violations and has brought criminal charges against two former officers for their conduct during the 2020 protests in support of Black lives. 

Cory Evans, was convicted of deprivation of rights under the color of law for hitting a kneeling protester in the back of the head and was sentenced to two years in federal prison, and an additional two years of supervised release. The federal agency sought to charge Katie Crews with shooting pepper balls at someone while “standing on private property and not posing a threat” But a federal grand jury only indicted Crews of the same charge Evans was convicted of — deprivation of rights under the color of law.

“I'm sure the federal Department of Justice didn't come to Louisville, Kentucky, and spend all this money, time and resources to charge two police officers. I'm sure there's more to come,” Mour said. “I hope the DOJ takes notice because what I'd like them to do is indict [the defendant] police officers for criminal civil rights violations.”

Mour said, with federal claims on the table, he expects the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky to take over the case by mid-May. 

Yasmine Jumaa is LPM’s race and equity reporter. Email Yasmine at yjumaa@lpm.org.