Four young Louisville men say a $1.5 million settlement from the city won’t make amends for their erroneous arrests last year on robbery charges.
“Because it took our family through stress. They humiliated our names,” said one of the men, 22-year-old Jerron Bush, during a news conference on Thursday.
Added Tyron Booker: “They made us look like animals.”
The Jefferson County Attorney’s Office on Tuesday publicly acknowledged the settlement with Bush; Booker, 20; Craig Dean, 21; and Shaquazz Allen, 19.
On March 22, 2014, a string of violent acts attributed to young people occurred in downtown Louisville. The incident set off months of introspection by city officials and community members about the state of young people in Louisville.
Shortly after the incidents, the four men were arrested and charged with robbery in connection to the March 22 violence.
But an investigation by Louisville Metro Police found numerous instances in their arrests where police failed to adhere to department policy, Chief Steve Conrad said in a statement.
In a review of an investigation into the arrests, Conrad said officers did not properly conduct the identification process commonly referred to as a “show-up,” which allows an alleged victim to attempt to identify suspected perpetrators on the street.
Specifically, the officers did not obtain a description of the suspected violators from the alleged victim before the identification process began, Conrad said.
The officers also failed to follow protocol when they allowed two alleged victims to collaborate during the identification process. The identification process was also not properly recorded, and officers failed to conduct a “thorough search for physical evidence,” Conrad said.
The arrest came after a woman was allegedly robbed at gunpoint on the night of March 22 near 34th Street in west Louisville, said Larry Simon, an attorney for the young men.
“A police officer goes in a cruiser down 34th street, the first people he sees are three of the guys sitting on a porch,” he said.
Simon said the officers then transported the alleged victims to the house where the young men were and asked the victims to identify them.
“And believe it or not, they’re identified,” he adds.
The four men were charged with first degree robbery, among other charges. But in June 2014 a Jefferson County grand jury declined to indict the men.
At that time, assistant commonwealth’s attorney Leland Hulbert said the lack of available evidence made it “very hard” to bring a case that could prove the men were guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Jan Waddell, an attorney for the young men, said the commonwealth attorney’s office stopped “an injustice.”
Al Gerhardstein, another attorney for the men, said the “settlement is a chance for Metro Government to press the reset button on how they do in person show-ups, on how they do (identifications).”
Conrad said the errors in the arrest “were due to the officers’ inexperience as opposed to any deliberate act.”
“The officers have been counseled and retrained about the proper procedures and a training bulletin was sent to all officers at LMPD to inform them of proper procedures,” he said in the statement.
(See below for the complete training bulletin sent to Louisville Metro Police officers.)
Louisville Metro Police make more than 30,000 arrests annually, Conrad said.
“When a mistake is made we will address it, as we have in this case,” he added.
The young men were in jail or mandated to home incarceration for up to 70 days, they said. Bush said he missed two months of school and has had to re-enroll to finish his senior year at Waggener High School. Other members of the group lost jobs and some had college plans derailed.
Though neither the young men or their attorneys would provide details as to how the $1.5 million will be divvied out, the men said the money will help them get caught up on bills and take care of their “responsibilities.”
Dean said he plans to use the money to continue his education.
Mayor Greg Fischer issued an apology to the young men on behalf of the city, but added that he doesn’t believe racial profiling was the root cause of the wrongful arrest.
“I don’t think it has anything to do with it,” he said. “There was a mistake made in the procedure but I don’t see how race could be involved with this particular issue, I just don’t understand that.”
The young men accepted Fischer’s apology on Thursday; but they said they believe their arrest was based solely on race, and they still don’t feel comfortable walking through their neighborhood.
“I feel like we’ve got to look over our shoulders more now,” Booker added.