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After rash of homicides, new Louisville mayor calls on community to prevent violence

Craig Greenberg speaks at a lectern surrounded by anti-violence advocates in Metro Hall.
Jess Clark
/
LPM
Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg says LMPD can't solve the violence problem on its own.

After 10 homicides in the first 10 days of the year, Louisville’s new mayoral administration is calling on members of the community to help prevent more violence.

“We need everyone's help to stop this violence,” Mayor Craig Greenberg said during a press conference Wednesday. “LMPD cannot do it on its own, and we should not expect them or want them to do it on its own.”

Greenberg gathered at Metro Hall with uniformed officers, local clergy, activists and victims of violence. The mayor — who campaigned on a public safety platform — invited members of the public to participate in an anti-violence working group Greenberg said he planned to convene “in the coming days.”

“Not just conversation, but action-oriented discussion,” he said.

Individuals or groups who want to participate can call 502-754-2003.

The city has seen an unprecedented spike in violence since the coronavirus pandemic began. Christopher 2X, who runs the anti-violence initiative Game Changers, said more than 500 people were killed in homicides, and more than 1,500 wounded in a shooting. That’s a reality, 2X said, that’s hitting Greenberg’s administration “in real time in the first 11 days of 2023.”

Jason Buckner’s brother Jeremiah Buckner was shot and killed on Jan. 3. Jason said his brother was an activist who worked to stop violence. Speaking at Metro Hall, he compared his brother to the superhero Raphael from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics.

“That was my Raphael, man. He fought for me — for you!” Buckner said.

“You are not in a war just against whatever you think you’re in a war against. This is your soul — and you’re playing with it!” he said.

01112023_Jason Buckner_Homicide Presser_Metro Hall_Jess Clark
Jess Clark
/
LPM
Jason Buckner spoke about his brother Jeremiah Buckner, a musician and activist who was shot and killed this month.

Leonard Boyd said his 9-year-old granddaughter is afraid to walk to school after coming across the body of Sherry Allen with her mother and Boyd. Allen was shot and killed on Jan. 3 in the Parkland neighborhood. Three days later Boyd’s neighbor, Mitchell Eddings, was killed on the same block.

“She’s still traumatized,” Boyd said. “There’s been a lot of devastation with the people on my block.”

Interim LMPD Chief Jacquelyn Gwinn-Villaroel said the spike in violence is connected to gangs but also to smaller, personal altercations that escalate. LMPD has not yet made any arrests in the first ten homicides of 2023.

2X, a long-time activist, was skeptical that the police and administration will be successful in looking to community members to solve the problem.

“Citizens look at it like, ‘Really? I got to live in these neighborhoods where bullets are flying and you want me to put my family and kids in harms’ way?’ It’s not that easy for them to take on that kind of task,” he said.

The local clergy and activists present at Metro Hall with Greenberg, however, were more optimistic, as was the police chief.

“This is a unified front that you are seeing before you today,” Gwinn-Villaroel said. “If we want to impact change within this city, there should be no divide.”

Short- and long-term solutions promised

In addition to the community discussion, Greenberg said he’s committed to finding short-term solutions to improve policing. As an example, he said he’s working on improving turnaround times for DNA tests, and he’s in the process of getting detectives access to new crime-solving software.

LMPD spokesperson Alicia Smiley said the department is currently in the “research and comparison phase regarding software.”

She declined to share more information about what the software is meant to do.

“Commanders have elected not to release specific details of what they’re looking at until final decisions have been made,” she wrote in an email to LPM News.

LMPD said it solved about half of the homicide cases detectives investigated in 2022, up from 32% in 2021.

Long-term, Greenberg said he wants to improve officer recruitment and retention, and invest in neighborhoods the city has long disinvested in to address root cause issues like poverty, health problems and lack of access to job and education opportunities.

Asked about a timeline, Greenberg said his administration is working “as fast as possible.”

“Our focus today is to ensure that we don't get to number 11,” Gwinn-Villaroel said.

Boyd, the grandfather, is also a pastor who also runs the anti-violence group Mics Up Guns Down. He said he’d like more LMPD patrols on his block, and he’d like the officers to have a better relationship with residents.

“I think officers need to get out and get acquainted with the areas,” he said.

An audit released in 2021 of LMPD found the department’s relationship with Louisville’s Black communities is “deeply strained” due to racially discriminatory policing practices. The U.S. Department of Justice is expected to issue a report with the findings of its investigation into whether LMPD has a “pattern or practice” of violating residents’ civil rights, though it is not clear when that will be released.

Correction: A previous version of this story misspelled Jason and Jeremiah Buckner's last name.

Jess Clark is LPMs Education and Learning Reporter. Email Jess at jclark@lpm.org.