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Law enforcement releasing few details about Omari Cryer killing by U.S. Marshal

A crowd gathered in Jefferson Square Park, carrying bundles of red and white balloons and signs depicting Omari Cryer, who U.S. Marshals shot and killed last week.
A crowd gathered in Jefferson Square Park, carrying bundles of red and white balloons and signs depicting Omari Cryer, who U.S. Marshals shot and killed last week.

Protesters and family members gathered Monday evening for a balloon release in remembrance of Omari Cryer, the 25-year-old a U.S. Marshal shot and killed last Friday in Louisville’s Chickasaw neighborhood.

They carried bundles of red and white balloons and signs depicting Cryer in Jefferson Square Park, which became the focal point of the 2020 protest movement in response to the police killing of Breonna Taylor.

Vanessa Jamison, who described herself as Cryer’s aunt, told the crowd people are not a threat when they are running away from police. Earlier in the day, Louisville Metro Police Chief Erika Shields said the fatal shooting occurred following a foot chase.

“We can just say, keep our family in prayer, keep the community uplifted — we just want answers, that’s it,” Jamison said. “I don’t even like being on camera, I just want justice for my nephew. I just want answers, I just want justice, that’s it.”

Chris Will, who organized protests following Taylor’s death, was among the group of mourners. Will said Cryer’s death is yet another instance of the city keeping families of police shooting victims in the dark.

“Every time things like this happen in Louisville, Kentucky — botched raids, the Breonna Taylor case — Louisville Metro Police Department, the mayor, Metro Council, they all say, ‘we’re trying to be transparent,’ or ‘we’re going to be transparent,’ but it never happens.”

Cryer’s family and friends are demanding answers about why he was killed and the events that lead up to his death, but officials have released few details. Here’s what we know so far:

Police say Cryer was wanted for arrest

Officials with the Louisville Metro Police Department issued a statement Saturday saying the shooting occurred during a raid by the U.S. Marshals Task Force. As federal agents attempted to serve an arrest warrant around 8:45 a.m., LMPD said, “an altercation ensued” between Cryer and a deputy U.S. Marshal.

Speaking at a press conference Monday afternoon, Police Chief Erika Shields said Cryer fled as federal agents arrived at the home where he was staying.

“There was a brief foot pursuit,” Shields said. “They ran upon a fence. Subsequently, the marshals opened fire, striking Mr. Cryer.”

Shields added that Cryer was in possession of a handgun at the time he was shot, but did not say if he brandished the gun or whether the federal agents pursuing him were aware he was armed. She said any body camera footage would be released “in the near future,” along with the full coroner’s report.

A copy of the arrest warrant obtained by WFPL News shows Cryer was wanted on two felony charges — second-degree assault and first-degree strangulation — related to an alleged domestic violence incident on Jan. 23. He also faced misdemeanor charges of third-degree terroristic threatening and fourth-degree assault.

Police alleged that Cryer punched a woman in the face and head while she was asleep. According to the arrest warrant, Cryer also used his forearm to choke the woman up against a wall while threatening to kill her. The alleged victim, who has a child with Cryer, escaped to a neighboring home.

WFPL does not name victims of domestic abuse.

During the incident, police claim Cryer was holding a black semiautomatic handgun. WFPL has not independently verified the allegations, and Cryer was not convicted of these charges.

Details around Cryer’s killing remain scarce

Cryer died around 9 a.m. in the 800 block of Sutcliffe Ave., although the incident may have started at a home one block away, according to a statement from Chief Deputy Coroner Scott Russ. He said Cryer had multiple gunshot wounds.

While rumors have circulated about the circumstances of Cryer’s death, his family members told local news media that police have not given them any information.

It was initially unclear why the U.S. Marshals, a federal unit, were involved in serving an arrest warrant for state charges. The warrant was requested by an LMPD detective and signed by Jefferson County District Court Judge Katie King.

Shields said Monday that LMPD has partnerships with a number of federal agencies, including the U.S. Marshals Service, which they sometimes utilize for warrants for state charges.

“[The Marshals] work with us to serve high-risk felony warrants,” she said at the press conference. “It’s no different than the [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives], which is embedded with us. We make a number of gun cases that go to the Commonwealth.”

Brian Parrish, Chief Deputy Marshal of the Western Kentucky District, did not respond to a request for comment.

In addition to demands from Cryer’s family, former state representative and U.S. Senate candidate Charles Booker sent a letter to Louisville Metro officials Sunday asking for “a full and honest account” of what led to the shooting.

LMPD’s Public Integrity Unit is investigating the incident at the request of the U.S. Marshals. That unit typically handles criminal investigations into officers who shoot someone while on duty.

Jacob Ryan and Ryan Van Velzer contributed to this story.

This story was updated at 10:15 p.m.

Roberto Roldan is the City Politics and Government Reporter for WFPL. Email Roberto at rroldan@lpm.org.