A Louisville man is dead and a Metro police officer is on paid administrative leave after a shooting Saturday afternoon in Old Louisville. The man’s death has led to scrutiny of police actions and policies from activists; an internal investigation is underway.
As the discussion surrounding the shooting death continues, here’s what’s known about the case so far:
Officer Nathan Blanford arrived in a police car near the corner of Fourth and Oak streets at about 2 p.m. Saturday in response to an assault report, according to the Courier-Journal.
According to surveillance video from a nearby store released Sunday by police, after a brief interaction, the suspect walks out of the frame, but returns swinging a near seven-foot metal pole at the officer. Blanford steps away from the suspect, then shot him twice.
Deng Manyoun, 35, was pronounced dead at 3 p.m. at University Hospital, according to a report in The Courier-Journal. Chief Steve Conrad said he is unsure about whether suspect could speak or understand the English language.
Blanford is a 10-year police veteran. He is a member of the department’s Fourth Division and assigned to day shift duty, Conrad said following a news conference on Sunday.
In his decade with Louisville Metro Police, Blanford has received two written reprimands, a one-day suspension and been ordered to receive counseling from his major, according to his personnel file. All of the actions were discipline for missing court dates.
He has also received more than 15 commendation letters from department leaders.
Not much is known yet about Manyoun. He was an immigrant from Sudan who’s lived in Louisville for about five years, according to reporting from WDRB.
Conrad said the department will follow standard procedure in its investigation of the shooting.
(The department’s standard operating procedure can be found here.)
That means the department’s Public Integrity Unit and Professional Standards Unit will examine the details of the incident. The Public Integrity Unit treats the shooting as a criminal investigation to determine if the officer violated the law, Conrad said.
“The officer involved is a suspect in a criminal investigation, which is an odd place to put an officer, but that is their role,” Conrad said.
The 10-person PIU unit will collect evidence from the scene, including the officer’s weapon, the pole used by the suspect, as well as conduct interviews with potential witnesses and collect any surveillance footage that shows the incident, among other tasks, Conrad said. The officer’s weapon will be tested at the Kentucky State Police crime lab.
The investigation may take as long as eight weeks.
Once complete—and pending the results of an autopsy and toxicology report— the findings will be turned over the Commonwealth Attorney’s office for review, Conrad said.
The Commonwealth Attorney will determine if the shooting is justifiable or should be sent to a grand jury for “a possible indictment,” Conrad said.
“Whether or not a shooting is justifiable under the law is not my call,” Conrad said.
The Public Integrity Unit’s investigation will also be presented to the Citizen’s Commission on Police Accountability for review, Conrad said.
Once the Public Integrity Investigation Unit closes its investigation, the Public Standards Unit will begin its review of the shooting to determine if Blanford followed proper police procedure and protocol during the incident, Conrad said.
Louisville Metro police officers have fired guns at suspects 17 reported times since 2012, Conrad said. Of those incidents, six people have been killed and seven people were wounded but survived. Four shooting incidents resulted in no injuries or deaths.
Ten of those shooting incidents have been resolved; seven are still pending, Conrad said.
Louisville activists were critical of the officer’s actions following the shooting.
Some criticized the officer’s fatal decision to pull out his gun.
As nurses we take down men often 3x our size. We are often Assaulted with weapons much worse than a pole & Our attackers live…#Louisville
— FierceFemtivist (@FierceFemtivist) June 14, 2015
I saw the whole video. He does swing at the officer, but is deadly force necessary?
— Smokey Carmichael (@TweetItHowULive) June 14, 2015
His first instinct was to draw his gun. This is the problem we have with policing. Even if a white suspect has a gun they try to negotiate
— Ryan Herring (@infiniteideal) June 14, 2015
Louisville activists met Sunday afternoon and discussed their desire for Louisville Metro Police to be more transparent, according to a Courier-Journal report. They called for the creation of a civilian review commission—one with more authority than the current commission—and the need to establish a drug test policy for officers involved in fatal encounters.
‘Use of Force’ Policy
Louisville Metro Police policy regarding use of force states “officers’ use of force shall be value driven, utilizing only the force reasonable under the circumstances in order to minimize the chance of injury to themselves and others.”
Officers are trained to use a range of techniques to apprehend a person without using deadly force, Conrad said.
The process of escalation is expected to begin with the officer’s presence, then verbal direction and minor hand restraints. Other steps include using mace or a taser, to hand-to-hand force and the use of an impact weapon such as a baton, Conrad said. The final option is a deadly force.
Conrad said officers are authorized to shoot when facing serious physical injury or a threat to human life. That includes self-defense.
“There isn’t a straight line that would say that dangerous instrument doesn’t represent a risk,” he said.
Whatever the case, Conrad said, the “degree of force that is utilized must be reasonable.”
“Reasonable,” he said, is defined by case law.
“What would be reasonable to cause an ordinary and prudent officer to act or think in a similar way in similar circumstances,” he said
Blanford will be interviewed. But he will not be required to give a statement during the Public Integrity Unit investigation, Conrad said. During the Public Standards Unit investigation, however, Blanford will likely be ordered to give a statement about the incident—and if he refuses, he will likely be fired from the department, Conrad said.
Conrad said he has not yet reached any conclusion regarding this particular case. He stressed the entire confrontation happened very quickly, within minutes.
“That man was on top of that officer very, very quickly—it happened in just a second,” he said.