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Louisville student, adult shot in fight involving JCPS bus riders

yellow police tape floats in the grass on a street corner.
Jess Clark
/
LPM
Jefferson County Public School officials say both the adult and the Eastern High school student were treated for non-life-threatening gunshot injuries.

One Eastern High School student and one adult were injured in a shooting when students got off a school bus in the Russell neighborhood Wednesday afternoon.

Louisville Metro Police Department spokesperson Matthew Sanders said both were transported to U of L Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

“Very preliminary information suggests that an altercation started on a [Jefferson County Public Schools] school bus which then escalated once the students got off the bus,” Sanders said in an emailed statement.

JCPS officials appeared to push back against that narrative. In a statement Thursday, JCPS spokesperson Carolyn Callahan said that after reviewing video from the bus and interviewing riders, the district had “nothing to indicate there was an altercation on the school bus.”

Video of the incident obtained by WDRB News shows several teenagers with backpacks and lunchboxes at the corner of 24th St. and Magazine St. engaged in multiple physical altercations. In the video, two adults try unsuccessfully to break up one of the fights. Then several gunshots are heard, and the crowd scatters. It’s unclear from the video where the shots came from.

Sanders said the fight involved “several high school-aged juveniles.”

“When officers arrived, they discovered a high school-aged juvenile and an adult both suffering from gunshot wounds,” he said.

In an email sent to Eastern High School families on Wednesday, Principal Heather Ormond said the young person injured was an Eastern student.

“This afternoon, one of our students was shot near 24th and Magazine Street after school,” she wrote. “The Louisville Metro Police Department is handling the investigation into what happened and will release details as they become available. Tomorrow and Friday, there will be security in the area where today's shooting occurred, and we will have additional security at school.”

Ormond said mental health counselors and practitioners would be available for students.

According to JCPS, LMPD is leading the investigation.

JCPS and city officials respond to incident

Ormond’s statement to Eastern High School families made no mention of LMPD’s preliminary information that the fight may have started on the bus.

According to JCPS spokesperson Carolyn Callahan, the corner where the shooting occurred was not a bus stop. District maps show students’ afternoon stop was at the corner of 24th St. and West Broadway, a tenth of a mile away, or about a three-minute walk.

“The students were not dropped at 24th and Magazine, they were dropped at their correct bus stop and yesterday’s situation happened in the community,” Callahan wrote in an email.

Callahan did not directly answer questions from LPM News asking if a bus monitor would be added to the students’ bus, or if parents would be notified of preliminary information from LMPD that the incident began on the bus.

“We are looking into the initial information from LMPD that stated there was an altercation on the school bus,” Callahan wrote.

Asked to comment on how the city can make the Russell neighborhood safer for the student commute, District 5 Louisville Metro Councilwoman Donna Purvis, warned against sensationalizing the incident in the West End, saying “there are shootings all over the city/county.”

“Let’s be fair and show equity when reporting incidents all OVER,” she wrote.

Crime mapping shows that homicides occur throughout Jefferson County, but they are disproportionately concentrated in west Louisville. Many researchers believe increased community violence is the result of underlying causes, such as systemic racism, discriminatory housing policies, poverty and trauma.

Shooting took place near location of 2021 gun death of Eastern High School student Tyree Smith

Wednesday's shooting took place five blocks away from Dr. W. D. Hodge St. and Chestnut St. where another Eastern High School student, Tyree Smith, was shot and killed waiting for his bus on the morning of Sept. 22, 2021

Smith’s death ramped up public pressure on JCPS to increase police presence in schools.

At the time, then-LMPD Chief Erika Shields said without more law enforcement in schools, police were lacking “critical intelligence” about gang activity and the risk of student violence.

Fending off criticism, JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio and some Jefferson County Board of Education members said it was not JCPS’ job to police street corners.

“This is not a JCPS problem,” Pollio said in a video message to families after Tyree’s death. “It is a community-wide issue.”

An investigation by LPM revealed district officials and LMPD knew about mounting danger to students who waited at that stop, including a previous shooting, but neither agency provided security, and LMPD never opened an investigation.

Eastern High School Principal Ormond and JCPS are facing a lawsuit from Tyree’s mother Sherita Smith for allegedly failing to communicate the danger posed to students on his school bus.

Smith said she believes her son might still be alive if JCPS staff had acted with more urgency or shared with parents the possibility that the bus might not be safe.

“I just always feel like maybe if I knew more, I could have did more,” she told LPM News in September 2022, saying she could have driven Tyree to school herself or kept him home a few days.

District officials declined to comment further on Smith’s case, citing pending litigation.

This story has been updated.

Support for this story was provided in part by the Jewish Heritage Fund.

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