Community

A group of pastors gathered at the front of a quiet church and looked out at a small group of cameras.

Rows of blue pews sat empty. The air conditioner hummed, beating the heat that swirled just beyond the stained glass windows.

The reporters and photographers huddled in the New Covenant Baptist Church on 40th Street in Chickasaw on a humid August weekday not for a sermon, but rather to hear a group of faith leaders talk about a recent police shooting that left one African-American man dead and two white officers under investigation.

“We’re frustrated, we’re angry, but how we respond is how our people will respond,” said the Rev. Timothy Findley Jr., talking about his congregation.

The shooting occurred early Monday morning. Darnell Wicker was shot multiple times by two Louisville Metro Police officers after he allegedly approached the officers with a handsaw, according to police.

Officers Taylor Banks and Beau Gadegaard were responding to an emergency 911 call for an alleged domestic violence situation made at the behest of Wicker’s longtime girlfriend, Anita Jones.

Details of how the shooting unfolded began to emerge hours after it occurred. Police Chief Steve Conrad held a press conference Monday afternoon and later released the body camera footage from the officers at the scene.

The details have done little to quell residents’ concerns. Instead, they’ve fueled questions and skepticism about the shooting.

Jones, who witnessed the shooting along with her daughter, Denita, and son, Arthur, addressed reporters Tuesday.

Conrad himself questioned the shooting for the lethal use of force and the lack of aid rendered by the officers at the scene.

Friends of Wicker have also raised questions, wondering why lethal force was necessary.

Now the pastors, the executive leadership of the Interdenominational Ministerial Coalition, are calling the shooting into question. Findley said the group collectively represents thousands of churchgoers in Louisville, and many share their anger and grief over the shooting.

Channeling that anger, he said, is critical for a establishing a response that can bring positive change.

“We are calling for accountability and resolve, not in anonymity with the police force, but in collaboration,” he said.

These pastors will get a chance to channel their anger on Sunday, from their pulpit.

Rev. Vincent James, pastor at Elim Baptist Church and president of the Interdenominational Ministerial Coalition, plans to address the shooting like he does other acts of violence, oppression and injustice: head on.

The Rev. Vincent JamesJacob Ryan | wfpl.org

The Rev. Vincent James

“We have to address these issues,” he said.

Come this Sunday, James said he’ll preach from the Book of Matthew in the Bible. He said he’ll focus his sermon on the concept that “the Lord blesses those that mourn.”

He plans to discuss the power of mourning and the necessity to follow it with action.

“That’s where I’m going to be leading my people,” he said.

The anger and grief that many people here feel after seeing multiple police killings of African-American men across the country, coupled with the stress brought on by the city’s climbing murder count, can propel people to make great changes, he said.

For that reason, James said it’s important for faith leaders to talk about these things during their services, bring them to the forefront and convince people that with the pain comes an opportunity to “put pressure on the system.”

“To make sure no one else dies,” he said. “Because it’s going to continue to happen until change is made, and that’s what we have to believe in, that change can happen.”

Jacob Ryan is a reporter for the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.