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Search warrants show police targeted tech devices after Louisville mass shooting

A police car outside the mass shooting at Old National Bank in downtown Louisville on Monday April 10, 2023.
Ryan Van Velzer
Louisville Metro Police obtained four search warrants in the hope of learning more about the bank shooter.

The warrants were under court-ordered seal for a month after the shooting at Old National Bank downtown. They show police sought to analyze the online footprint left by the shooter.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear addressed the public from inside the emergency operations center in Louisville on the afternoon of April 10 and promised law enforcement would find out what led to the mass shooting earlier that day that left five people dead and several others injured.

Three days later, a Jefferson County Circuit Court judge approved several search warrants that Louisville Metro police hoped would help paint a picture of the shooter’s life before he walked into the Old National Bank and opened fire with an AR-15-style rifle purchased a week earlier.

The four warrants were signed and sealed by Judge Amber Wolf and precluded from public disclosure for thirty days. The Jefferson County Court Clerk provided copies to the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting this week.

Det. Timothy O’Daniel wrote in his affidavits that gaining access to the shooter's AT&T cell phone account, Google accounts, Apple account and Snapchat account could provide critical clues to identify potential co-conspirators, witnesses, motives and more.

A screenshot of a search warrant filed by LMPD Det. Timothy O'Daniel.
Jefferson County Court Clerk
A screenshot of a search warrant filed by LMPD Det. Timothy O'Daniel.

The details contained in the accounts would show detectives key location data for the shooter in the days leading up to the massacre inside the bank, O’Daniel said. The information could also provide evidence about recent purchases, online searches, messages, and a “pattern of life” that would help detectives with their investigation into Connor Sturgeon, the deceased 25-year-old shooter.

The warrants do not include any details about what, if anything, the technology companies returned to police in response. Louisville Metro Police officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In the affidavits, O’Daniel said he’s assisted with hundreds of cellular device investigations and is the department’s “resident expert in utilizing cellular technology in criminal investigations.”

He said it’s reasonable to believe Sturgeon communicated about his plans prior to the shooting, “including who was involved, the motive for the offense, and specific details about how the crime will be committed.”

O’Daniel said Sturgeon live-streamed the shooting on his Instagram account. Police found Sturgeon’s phone on his body and on the device found “plans about how to conduct the criminal activities,” O’Daniel said. Detectives also found text messages to Sturgeon’s girlfriend and a “manifesto” inside his home that supported statements from his family “that his mental health disorders may have played a part” in the shooting. O’Daniel also said Sturgeon’s family said he’d attempted suicide last year.

A screenshot of a search warrant obtained by LMPD Det. Timothy O'Daniel.
Jefferson County Court Clerk
A screenshot of a search warrant obtained by LMPD Det. Timothy O'Daniel.

A spokesperson for the Jefferson County Court Clerk said the court does not have records of warrants for Sturgeon’s home.

An LMPD officer killed Sturgeon minutes after responding to the shooting scene, according to police officials.

Obtaining search warrants for technology devices and accounts is an increasingly common tactic for police investigators. In Louisville, police targeted cell phones, social media accounts or other technology devices in nearly 44% of more than 700 publicly available search warrants filed with court officials between August 2019 and December 2022, according to a KyCIR review.

Jacob Ryan is the managing editor of the Kentucky Center for Investigative reporting. He's an award-winning investigative reporter who joined LPM in 2014. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.

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