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Louisvillians in the West End highlight public safety concerns after Chickasaw Park shooting

The tennis courts in Chickasaw Park in front of a blue sky with white clouds.
Ryan Van Velzer
The tennis courts in Chickasaw Park on April 17, 2023.

The mass shooting in Chickasaw Park on Saturday has prompted some west Louisville residents to call for immediate improvements to public safety in their neighborhoods and support for youth development programs.

Standing by the tennis courts at Chickasaw Park on a sunny afternoon, Aretha Fuqua emphasized the serenity of this outdoor space.

The park is a key part of public life in the West End. And it’s an especially important part of Fuqua’s personal life; she spends most of her days on the courts as president of the West Louisville Tennis Club.

“This is a multi generational park. We love each other, we coexist,” Fuqua said.

On Saturday, that coexistence was violently disrupted by another act of gun violence. Two people were killed and another four were injured when an unidentified suspect fired a gun into a crowd of hundreds, who were enjoying a warm spring evening. 28-year-old Deaji Goodman and 17-year-old David Huff both died from multiple gunshot wounds. A spokesperson with U of L Health said three people remain in the hospital in stable condition, as of Monday.

Few details have been released about the shooting in Chickasaw Park. Louisville Metro Police have yet to make an arrest, and as of Saturday night, police said no witnesses had come forward.

Louisville Metro Council Member Donna Purvis, a District 5 Democrat, lives around the corner from the park. She met with officials there the night of the shooting, and hasn’t been able to find out much more since.

“I was just so mad and hurt at the same time,” Purvis said of that night. “I didn’t know if it was someone looking for someone, I don't know if it was your typical mass shooting where they are just shooting everybody and anybody.”

This mass shooting occurred less than one week after five people died in a workplace shooting at Old National Bank in downtown Louisville.

As of Monday, 51 people have died from gun violence in Louisville so far this year, according to anti-gun violence activist Christopher 2X with 2X Game Changers.

“That is telling for a mid-sized city,” he said. “One thing has certainly changed: Since 2019, we are on a trajectory that 100-plus homicides per year are becoming the norm for us and that is not good.”

Some local and state elected officials continue to push for policy changes in response to this particularly violent week in Louisville. Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg said at a rally at Chickasaw Park on Sunday – the day after the shooting there – that he will keep fighting “on a state level to implement laws that will allow us to address the gun violence epidemic we are dealing with here in Louisville.”

But Fuqua is focused on what’s happening in her own community. As someone who works directly with children and young adults, she said increasing the number of programs for youth could help curb the gun violence that continues to plague west Louisville.

Young people between 15 and 24 years old are disproportionately victims of homicides, and disproportionately charged for local homicides, according to data from the local nonprofit Greater Louisville Project. Their report found that a surge in killings comes in the wake of funding cuts for youth development programs.

“I can appreciate all of the concerns about changing gun laws … but we need an immediate solution,” Fuqua said. “Focus on the low hanging fruit. Fix the little bitty things, and you'll be surprised how that changes the attitudes and behavior of people.”

Fuqua is also pushing for improvements to public safety in Chickasaw Park, like installing surveillance cameras and improving lighting. She said the lights have been out for three weeks in the location where the shooting took place. These changes, Fuqua said, are simple things she and her neighbors need to feel safe.

Council Member Purvis said she’d like to see video cameras installed in the park, park rangers and earlier closing hours. She said she’s already proposed the changes to Greenberg in a meeting and that he’s open to the idea.

“To be in the park with their child? Isn’t that supposed to be a safe place?” Purvis said.

This story has been updated.

Ryan Van Velzer is the Kentucky Public Radio Managing Editor. Email Ryan at rvanvelzer@lpm.org.

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