Metro Louisville

This story has been updated.

Metro Council members are pushing Mayor Greg Fischer to show through documentation whether his policies for revitalizing the Russell neighborhood led to the killing of Breonna Taylor.

They demanded the immediate release of all documents related to the case and to Elliott Ave. Early this week, attorney Sam Aguiar alleged in a court filing that Louisville Metro Police aggressively pursued actions on Elliott Ave. because of Fischer’s desire to make way for development there. The warrant for Taylor’s apartment, miles away, was one in a batch that included three addresses on Elliott Ave., all related to a narcotics investigation.

Aguiar is one of the lawyers representing Taylor’s family in a wrongful death lawsuit currently pending in court.

Council members addressed their demands to Fischer in a letter delivered Wednesday, in which they criticized a lack of transparency by his administration.

“The accusation that your administration may have directed LMPD to act in a manner that would help clear the area for new development, if true, would destroy any notion of compassion and would serve as a modern twisted update to the policy of redlining that you have campaigned against,” the letter said.

Last month, council members announced their plan to investigate Fischer’s actions and decisions leading up to and following the killing of Taylor by police in her apartment during a middle-of-the night raid. Officers shot into her apartment after receiving a warning shot from her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, which struck Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly in the leg. Walker has said he did not know who was entering and thought he was shooting at intruders.

In the letter, council members demand that the administration turn over an array of documents by July 23—which is when the body, currently on summer break, is next scheduled to meet.

Council president David James (D-6), who signed the letter along with several others, said if the administration does not provide the documents, the body will attempt to acquire them through subpoenas.

For years, Fischer has hailed a new era of investment in west Louisville and particularly the Russell neighborhood, which has a high Black and low-income population. The area has suffered under policies including redlining and urban renewal, which limited homeownership, destroyed businesses and contributed to significant racial segregation.

It was within that context that his administration pursued public and private financing to support the Vision Russell plan to make change in the neighborhood, which some celebrate as revitalization and others deride as gentrification.

James and minority caucus chair Kevin Kramer (R-11) said during a news conference on Thursday, they had been shocked by Aguiar’s allegations. They were critical of the fact that much of the new information in the Taylor case has come through lawyers and the media, rather than from the administration.

“It was a document that I read and I thought, ‘I really hope that is not true,'” James said of Aguiar’s recent court filing. “It also made me think that we needed to do an investigation and find out what is true and what’s not.”

He said council members knew little about many details laid out in the amended complaint, including regarding the Place Based Investigations police unit that Aguiar alleged was behind the actions on Elliott Ave.

Kramer said the inquiry isn’t about whether Vision Russell is a good economic development project.

“The question is did we in fact allow a department other than the Mayor’s office to give direction to the police department about where to do an investigation, not based on where the crimes seem to be, but based on this particular location?” Kramer said.

Fischer denied the allegations presented by Aguiar, but said he could not release all the documents requested by the council.

“I was dumbfounded to see the linkage of this initiative here of trying to rebuild this block with safe and affordable housing was somehow tied into a nefarious objective with Breonna Taylor’s tragedy,” Fischer said in a news conference Thursday afternoon. He said police targeted the properties on Elliott Ave. because of evidence of criminal activity there.

He cited requests from Kentucky’s Attorney General Daniel Cameron and the FBI—each of which are investigating the Taylor killing for potential criminal charges against the officers—that such information not be released. They sent letters to interim police chief Robert Schroeder last month, which Fischer’s office provided to media on Thursday. He said whatever Metro isn’t precluded from being released would be released.

This week, parties in the civil case Taylor’s mother Tamika Palmer is bringing against the officers who shot at her daughter agreed not to release certain documents pertaining to the criminal investigations. That includes the defendants as well as Louisville Metro Government.

The mayor also responded to council members who criticized a lack of transparency, including regarding the Place Based Investigations unit. He said he was surprised by that because the council is regularly briefed on police activity.

 

Amina Elahi is WFPL's City Reporter.