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One year later, justice eludes victim’s family in Chickasaw Park mass shooting

A woman holds a candle at a community event at Chickasaw Park in 2023.
Justin Hicks
A year after the mass shooting at Louisville's Chickasaw Park, there are few details that might help close the case.

Six people were shot in Chickasaw Park a year ago. Two men died, and some grieving their loss express frustration for the lack of progress and communication around the investigation.

A year ago today, Louisville saw its second mass shooting in one week.

Hundreds of people gathered at Chickasaw Park on April 15, 2023 to enjoy an unusually warm spring night. Around 9 p.m., gunshots broke out in a crowd sending people fleeing. First responders initially struggled to reach the wounded, with so many people trying to run to safety. By the time Louisville Metro Police Officers arrived, 17-year-old David Huff and Deaji Goodman, 28, were murdered and four others were hospitalized.

Days earlier, another gunman had walked into the Old National Bank office downtown and killed five of his co-workers with an assault-style rifle. Today, the public knows much more about the perpetrator and victims from Old National Bank. The Louisville Metro Police Department recently released a 64-page investigative report on the tragedy after officially closing the case.

But a year on, there’s been little movement in the investigation into the Chickasaw Park mass shooting. LMPD officials say they’ve faced significant obstacles in trying to bring justice. Chief among them is that police say no witnesses have come forward.

Some family and friends of the victims, meanwhile, have grown frustrated with police and the lack of updates.

David Huff’s sister, Hailey Ligon, told LPM News that her family hasn’t been contacted by LMPD since the shooting last year.

“They really haven’t done anything about it, and I don’t think they’ll do anything about it,” she said. “I think that’s the justice we’ll get: No justice.”

The sparse information about the Chickasaw Park mass shooting, the neglect of city infrastructure in west Louisville and the lack of official communication has further strained relationships between LMPD and majority Black communities.

‘A bold personality’

Hailey Ligon lost her brother and her best friend when Huff was killed. Ligon said she was heartbroken when a family member called her that night to tell her about the shooting. She had already lost a brother, Monquel Ligon, to gun violence in 2016.

Huff was a student at Breckinridge Metropolitan High School. That’s where he and Math Resource Instructor Kumar Rashad met for the first time.

In the months leading up to his death, Rashad said Huff joined the mentorship group he oversaw, Men of Quality. Huff confided in Rashad that his girlfriend was pregnant.

“[David] saw something in himself that he just didn’t want to be involved in a lot of negativity outside of school,” Rashad said. “He really wanted to set some goals for himself and really get involved in one of these vocational programs.”

Rashad said he remembers Huff as someone who was great at carrying on a conversation, connecting with his teachers and with his fellow students.

“He definitely had a good sense of humor and a bold personality,” Rashad said. “David was always going to say what’s on his mind. Not in a confrontational way, just him being him.”

In the year since the shooting, Huff’s sister said she’s come to believe that LMPD doesn’t care about finding her brother’s murderer. She said her opinion is informed by her brother’s case and the many murders that go unsolved, particularly in west Louisville.

“All these little kids are dying, 16, 17 years old, and nobody is knowing who’s doing these things,” she said.

In 2021, amid a record number of homicides in the city, Louisville police solved just a third of all murders. LMPD said last year that their homicide clearance rate was improving, at about 46% as of October 2023.

Even with that increase, complaints about a lack of communication from police continue. In 2021, the parents of Jefferson County Sheriff's Deputy Brandon Shirley hired an attorney to push for more transparency in their son’s murder investigation.

And in 2022, Rashad’s brother-in-law was shot and killed in his own car and his family also struggled to get information from LMPD.

The city’s neglect of park security

A few hours after the mass shooting in Chickasaw Park, LMPD Deputy Chief Paul Humphrey briefed the media with red and blue of police lights illuminating the park behind him. In the early hours of the investigation, Humphrey expressed frustration that witnesses were not coming forward.

“We do know that hundreds of people were in the park at the time of this shooting,” he said, and then repeated, “Hundreds of people were in the park at the time of this shooting.”

Following the mass shootings in Chickasaw Park and the Old National Bank office, Louisville officials called on state lawmakers to pass stricter gun laws. Residents asked city leaders to “focus on the low hanging fruit.”

People who lived around Chickasaw Park noted the deficiencies in park security that police now say have made their investigation into the shooting more difficult; the parks lacked lighting and cameras.

Kevin Trager, a spokesperson for Mayor Craig Greenberg, said LG&E assessed all of the lighting in the park and along park roads immediately following the shooting. They found 23 of the 72 lights were out.

Trager said LG&E fixed all of the faulty lights the next weekend and upgraded every light with brighter LED bulbs.

“There also will be new lighting around the pond project that’s slated to be finished this summer,” he said.

Trager said the city also installed a license plate camera in the park since the shooting.

Chickasaw Park is poised to receive more than $4 million in investments, with a new nature playground and updates to the lodge. When LPM News asked if the department had installed traditional security cameras within the park, LMPD did not respond.

LMPD officials said they still haven’t spoken with any witnesses now a year later, and no “viable information” has come in to help move the case toward a resolution.

Investigators respond

LPM News sat down last week with LMPD Major Arnold Rivera, who oversees the Major Crimes Division that includes the Homicide Unit.

Rivera said he understands the frustration people have when they lose a family member or loved one to gun violence. But he pushed back on the idea that LMPD doesn’t care.

Asked to speak directly to Huff’s family, Rivera said he wants them to know LMPD is not giving up.

“We will continue to work and seek justice and hold those to account that commit violent crime in our community, that, for whatever reason, choose violence,” he said, “We will not stop. We won't ever stop.”

The Chickasaw Park mass shooting remains an open and active investigation, Rivera said. He said “it is diligently being worked by one of our detectives.”

Rivera said LMPD detectives typically follow up with families “whenever they have any significant updates, or any updates whatsoever.”

“It's my understanding that there has not been any viable information that has come in that was actionable, that would lead to any sort of resolution on the case,” Rivera said.

Because the investigation is still active, Rivera said he wouldn’t share any specifics, like if LMPD has a suspect or suspects, or if the shooting targeted Huff, Goodman or the four other people who were injured.

Rivera acknowledged the lack of lighting and cameras at the time of the shooting are obstacles to solving the case.

“Those are challenges, challenges that can be overcome,” Rivera said.

He said the absence of witnesses, given how many people were in the park that night, continues to stymy the investigation. He implored people to come forward with any information about that night.

“This is our community,” Rivera said. “We live here. We play here. We thrive here. We suffer together … We need people to do the right thing, the courage to say what they've experienced, what they've seen and help.”

Hesitant to come forward

Last year, Mayor Craig Greenberg and LMPD Chief Jackie Gwinn-Villaroel announced the creation of a Nonfatal Shooting Squad in light of the city’s dismal homicide and nonfatal shooting clearance rates. They urged residents who have information about shootings or were witnesses to call the city’s anonymous tip hotline at 502-574-LMPD.

“If you see something, say something. We can’t do this without the public’s help,” Greenberg said at last year’s press conference.

The anonymous tip line has been a necessary resource for LMPD for its criminal investigations since 2004, and Greenberg isn’t the first mayor to urge residents to alert police through the tip line.

But after Louisville police killed Breonna Taylor in 2020, and the scathing federal report detailing the department’s discrimination policing and violation of residents’ civil rights, community trust in LMPD plummeted.

“Violence is an ugly, ugly, ugly deal,” said Christopher 2X, Executive Director of Game Changers, an anti-violence advocacy organization.. He’s seen a lot of frustrated homicide detectives hitting a wall as they invite the public to come forward with information.

He said people do want to come forward with information, but many are afraid.

“And the whole idea of the violent crime campaign, as a citizen, has always been extremely hard to get the average citizen on board for such an ugly, ugly, very undesirable situation that has a lot of fear connected to it, whether that fear is justified or not,” he said.

In the interview with LPM News on the Chickasaw Park shooting, Major Rivera said it was an “undeniable fact” that there were hundreds of people there.

“And for whatever reason, they are still choosing not to come forward and do the right thing. Their silence is condoning violence,” he said.

2X said he understands that perspective from law enforcement – that if citizens witness a homicide and don’t come forward, that they think the violence is acceptable.

But there are many more complexities at play, he said.

“With all of those individuals out there, that does not mean that they even knew what issues they were, who the victims were, so you can have hundreds of people looking and they might not know anything. They might not just know anything,” he said.

From his point of view, 2X calls the relationship between communities of color and the police department a “yin yang situation.” The police need them to solve crimes.

“And equally, those communities of color trying to decide, hey, we don't like the crime situation, we don't like the pain associated with it, having our children not having habitable and safe environments to thrive in. We want a relationship with the police department, but there's a history that won't get us there at some level,” he said.

David Huff’s sister, meanwhile, said she doesn’t think she’ll ever be able to work through her brother’s killing. Hailey Ligon said she wants to see the city and LMPD take responsibility to fix the problems that lead to so many open homicide cases.

“I would’ve liked to see the change before I lost my brother,” Ligon said.

Roberto Roldan is the City Politics and Government Reporter for WFPL. Email Roberto at rroldan@lpm.org.
Divya is LPM's Race & Equity Reporter. Email Divya at dkarthikeyan@lpm.org.

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