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Jeffersonville police show body camera footage in fatal police shooting

A police officer speaks behind a lectern. A TV screen is visible next to him.
Aprile Rickert
/
LPM
Jeffersonville Police Maj. Josh Lynch presented new details and body camera footage to news media Tuesday related to the officer shooting of a man March 9.

The Jeffersonville Police Department on Tuesday showed body camera footage of the minutes before three officers fatally shot a man earlier this month.

Indiana State Police are actively investigating the shooting and the Jeffersonville Police Department is conducting its own internal investigation. Jeffersonville Police Chief Kenny Kavanaugh said the officers were justified in shooting 44-year-old Robert W. Atkins, after he fired two shots in the air and advanced on responding officers.

Atkins died from his injuries three days later at University of Louisville Hospital.

At a press conference Tuesday, Jeffersonville police officials showed the video from body cameras worn by three of the five officers who responded. Police showed three different angles from the shooting and gave remarks during the news conference. As of Tuesday afternoon, police had not made the video publicly available other than to news media.

The video presentation included audio of a call from the woman who reported the incident. She said a man named Robert was armed with a gun and on drugs at Eastlawn Arms in Jeffersonville. Police said Atkins lived at that apartment complex.

The first of five officers arrived at 6:40 p.m. and spoke to the witness.

In the body camera footage, an officer can be heard saying that Atkins had something in his hand. Police said that was at 7:03 p.m. and one minute later, one of the officers can be heard saying, “He’s shooting in the air.”

Before a weapon was clearly in view, one gunshot could be heard in the video.

Police officers could then be heard telling Atkins to drop the gun, and also saying, “He’s pointing at officers, watch him.”

Then a second shot was audible.

Police officials said Atkins came toward police, but that was not clear in the video footage police showed at Tuesday’s press conference.

Multiple gunshots are heard in the video. Officials said three officers fired their weapons.

Police handcuffed Atkins and administered first aid to injuries to his chest and thigh.

At multiple points in the three body camera videos, officers can be heard discussing less lethal force, including a taser and a weapon that fires bean bags.

“Unfortunately officers were not given the time to get those resources in place,” Jeffersonville Police Maj. Josh Lynch said.

Police were dispatched to the scene about 30 minutes before they shot Atkins.

Jeffersonville Police Chief Kenny Kavanaugh said the department has “a responsibility within policing to police professionally, police responsibly, police ethically.”

“There's nothing that we're holding back,” he said of the body cam footage presented Tuesday.

Kavanaugh said that while the investigations are ongoing, he believes the officers were justified in their actions.

“I stand with confidence and trust before you today to tell you I know that these police officers did everything in their reasonable power to do everything properly and correctly and handle the situation,” he said.

According to his obituary, Atkins was a military veteran who served 13 years, and had been a custodian at the Robley Rex. V.A. Medical Center in Louisville.

Police previously told LPM News officers had encountered Atkins the night before the shooting in a church parking lot. He was taken to the hospital for a voluntary mental health evaluation, according to police.

Police officials said three officers at the scene fired their weapons – Aaron Olson, who’s been with the department since 2011; Shawn DeArk, with the department since 2016; Hunter Powell, with the department since 2018. Michael Meshinski and Seth Christian, who have both been with the department since 2021, were also at the scene.

All five officers are on paid administrative leave pending state and city investigations. Once ISP completes its evaluation, the findings are expected to be turned over to Clark County Prosecutor Jeremy Mull for review.

Coverage of Southern Indiana is funded, in part, by Samtec, Inc. and the Hazel & Walter T. Bales Foundation.

Aprile Rickert is LPM's Southern Indiana reporter. Email Aprile at arickert@lpm.org.