Community

The brutal beating happened not far from the bar.

From his chair just inside the door, Shawn Grady points north towards the alley where his 26-year-old son was murdered.

Grady thinks about his son every day. He wonders how his death will affect his three grandchildren.

“They’ll never see their dad again,” he said.

The killing of Mickel Kimbley was one of 64 criminal homicides recorded by police in Jefferson County in 2012. Since then, violent crime has surged.

More people were killed in Louisville last year than ever before. And police data show this year isn’t much different.

Stopping the killing is top of mind for city officials and many residents.

Stay The Course

Grady, 49, manages the bar at Club Cedar — a neighborhood staple on the corner of 26th and Cedar Street. As he readied the place for the Friday night crowd, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer presented his plan to address violence just a few blocks away at the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage.

Fischer gave a passionate plea for people to trust his long-range plan for violence reduction. The plan was developed in 2015 and is rooted in community building, education, employment, wellness and criminal justice.

“The violence affecting, in large part the neighborhoods of West Louisville, is not a simple problem with a simple solution,” he said.

And it’s unclear just when Fischer expects to see his plan reverse the trend of rising homicides and shootings. He’s often quick to say that Louisville is not unique in it’s struggle with violent crime.

“What you’re seeing in two-thirds of American cities is what we’re seeing right here,” he said.

Fischer’s spokesman points to data from the Major Cities Chiefs Association – which he said shows an increase in murder rates in 34 of 57 reporting cities between 2016 and 2017.

But data from the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law show crime levels in the nation’s largest cities remain at “near historic lows.”

The center found the recent uptick in national murder rates is driven, in large part, by a small group of cities like Chicago and Baltimore.

In Louisville, researchers found between 2015 and 2016 the crime rate rose more than 14 percent — the largest increase among the nation’s 30 largest cities.

In that same time, the city’s violent crime rate rose five percent and the murder rate rose to 17 killings per 100,000 residents — the same as Philadelphia and lower only than Chicago, Memphis, Detroit, Baltimore and Washington D.C.

Still, Fischer is confident in his plan to reduce violent crime in Louisville.

And some residents, like Shawn Grady, encourage Fischer to continue with current efforts.

“It’s positive, it means well,” Grady said.

But the state of things now is a sad reality for Grady — one perpetuated, he believes, by a lack of opportunities for people who struggle to feed, house and clothe themselves and their families.

“I don’t see an end to it,” he said.

Grady grew up not far from where his son was murdered. These days, he still calls the area home.

The bar has been a lifeline for Grady since he was a boy. He’s spent much of his life around the place — cleaning up outside as a kid and coming back to work after he returned from a 10-year tour in the Army.

The bar has thrived for decades. The wooden floor is well worn and faded photos hang behind the register. It’s a cash-only joint with a jukebox in the back. Scrawled in marker above the doorway is Psalm 91:

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.”

Violence, though, has left its mark — even here.

Earlier this year, the owner of Club Cedar was found murdered in his home. The killing shook many patrons and employees.

Grady said all of it — the murders, the crimes, the families affected — is horrible. But he said it’s part of life. And he expects it will get worse before it gets better.

This story has been updated with information provided from Mayor Fischer’s office regarding national murder rates. 

Jacob Ryan is the Metro Affairs reporter for WFPL.