Three Louisville Metro police officers are on administrative leave for their role in a weekend shooting that left a 32-year-old man dead.
William Young was killed after officers responded to a break-in call near Churchill Downs around 10:30 p.m. Saturday evening.
Young was white. The officers involved are also white, according to a police department spokesman. The department’s public integrity unit is investigating the incident.
Louisville Metro Police Chief Steve Conrad released camera footage Monday afternoon from two officer-worn body cameras that captured the shooting. The footage shows Young charging at the officers while holding what Conrad said appeared to be a “meat skewer.”
“As police officers, we hope and pray we never have to use deadly force, but when forced to do so we understand and accept the high level of public scrutiny that results from having to do just that,” he told reporters at a briefing.
One officer was injured during the shooting. The injury likely came when Russell Braun, an eight-year veteran of the Louisville Metro Police Department, shot himself in the hand, Conrad said.
Although three officers are on administrative leave, it’s unclear if all three shot at Young, Conrad said.
Braun and Officer Paige Young encountered Young after climbing the stairs to the second floor of a vacant, squalid house in the South Louisville neighborhood just a few blocks west of Churchill Downs.
Each fired multiple shots after Young charged the officers. He was pronounced dead at the scene by emergency service crews who responded, Conrad said.
Officer Randall Richardson is also on administrative leave, though Conrad said it’s unclear if he shot Young.
Young and Richardson both joined the police department in February 2015. Neither have disciplinary marks on their record. Richardson has earned commendation letters for volunteer efforts and for his response to a past shooting, among other things.
Braun, who joined the force in June 2008, has received commendation letters for overdose response action and for his assistance in locating a missing child, among other things. He’s been disciplined for being at fault in at least one vehicle accident, according to police records.
All three officers are assigned to the department’s Fourth Division. None were able to be reached for comment Monday. The president of the local police union, David Mutchler, did not return a request for comment.
While on administrative leave, the officers are initially relieved of their law enforcement powers, Conrad said.
“They are at home, they are relieved from coming in to work on duty until they have had an opportunity to be seen by a psychologist,” Conrad said.
When they return to duty, they do not return to street or beat assignments until the Public Integrity Unit investigation is complete, Conrad said.
Young was homeless and had been arrested nearly a dozen times prior to his deadly encounter with police this weekend, Conrad said.
He’s been arrested on charges that include aggravated assault, domestic violence, trespassing and drug possession, the chief said.
Some of his family members viewed the body camera footage prior to its public release Monday, said Christopher 2X, a community activist who assisted the family in organizing a press conference. He said after viewing the footage, the family members went into an “emotional frenzy.”
2X said they questioned why officers opted to use lethal force against Young.
Louisville Metro Police standard operating procedure authorizes officers to use deadly force in defense of human life, including their own.
Local police policy also outlines a “progression of force,” which includes an escalating scale of use-of-force options. The scale ranges from the officer’s presence to deadly force, but officers are not required to utilize one option before moving to the next, the policy states.
In the body camera footage, officers search the first floor of the vacant home with guns drawn and flashlights illuminated. Officers repeatedly make their presence known, the camera footage shows.
As the reach the top of the stairs, Young is seen crouching near the edge of the frame. He quickly stands and moves towards the officers holding what appears to be an elongated metal object, the camera footage shows.
The officers fire multiple shots and Young falls back onto a pile of scattered debris covering the floor of the house. Camera footage shows officers handcuff Young’s bloodied wrists as he lets out muffled groans.
WARNING: Explicit footage:
The police department’s Public Integrity Unit investigates all police shootings, Conrad said.
The unit interviews witnesses and officers involved in the shooting incidents. Officers are not required to provide a formal statement until they’ve had a chance to view the body camera footage, according to police policy.
This practice is a point of contention among policing experts.
Some see it as a chance for officers to tailor statements to what the footage shows, according to a Police Executive Research Forum report on body cameras.
“It can cause them to second-guess themselves, which makes them seem less credible,” Major Mark Person of the Prince George’s County (Maryland) Police Department said in the report.
But others see it differently, including Chief Conrad.
“That is the proper thing to do,” he said Monday. “I want them to know what happened from the camera’s perspective. I want them to be able to give an informed statement.”
Once the Public Integrity Unit completes the initial investigation, the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office will review the findings and determine whether criminal charges should be considered. If so, the case is presented to a grand jury for a possible indictment.
First of 2017
Saturday’s deadly police shooting is the first fatal police shooting of 2017.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer has yet to review the body camera footage, according to his spokesman.
Conrad didn’t offer his take on if the shooting was justified.
“I never draw any conclusions,” he said. “That is the purpose of the Public Integrity Investigation.”
The Commonwealth’s Attorney is currently reviewing the investigation of a 2016 fatal police shooting that left 57-year-old Darnell Wicker dead. It’s unclear when that review will be completed.
Louisville Metro Police report 27 police shootings since 2011. Nine of those shootings have been deadly, the data show.