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LOUISVILLE, Ky., (WDRB) -- Former Jefferson County Constable David Whitlock, who pleaded guilty in the shooting of a suspected shoplifter in a Walmart parking lot, has filed to run for Metro Council member Mary Woolridge's Shively-area district.
"Mary Woolridge has done a great job," Whitlock said in a phone interview Monday. "It's just time for a change."
Whitlock filed as a Democrat running in the 3rd District, according to paperwork filed with the Jefferson County Board of Elections on Monday.
Woolridge, who has been on the council since 2003, would not discuss Whitlock specifically but said she is "glad we live in a country where everyone is free to run for office."
Whitlock was forced to resign as constable and agree to never work in law enforcement again as part of a plea agreement in 2012 that spared him from having to go to prison for shooting a woman in a southwestern Louisville Walmart parking lot.
Whitlock entered an Alford plea in October 2012, meaning he did not admit his guilt on charges of first-degree wanton endangerment and second-degree assault under extreme emotional disturbance, but he conceded there was enough evidence to convict him. He entered a diversion program and those charges have since been dismissed.
Asked how he will address that incident while campaigning, Whitlock said he will be "honest with voters.
"It was an accident," he said of the shooting. "A lady ran over my foot and my weapon discharged."
But a Louisville Metro Police investigation found that video and witness accounts did not support Whitlock's claims that he had been struck, and it described him as approaching Tammie Ortiz with his gun pointed at her as he reached her vehicle's window.
Ortiz was wounded in her arm and face, and she was treated at a hospital and released.
Whitlock said he lives in the district and a lot of people have urged him to run, saying they have issues with vacant homes and overgrown areas. Whitlock didn't have any specific complaints about Woolridge but said she has been in office for over a decade and things have "gotten stale. The flame dwindles out a bit."
Woolridge said she will "continue to run on my record" and had no comment on Whitlock's statements or his past criminal case.
Whitlock said the attention from his criminal charges could actually benefit him.
"Every time I go to run for office I get negative press and it actually it helps me out," said Whitlock, who was C District commissioner several years ago. "I welcome the free publicity from you guys."
Whitlock said he took the constable position, "which was nothing" at the time, and turned it into a meaningful office that benefits the community.
"I'm a very honest individual," he said. "Very hard working in the community. I do a good job."
Constables are elected officers required by the Kentucky Constitution but are not given specific duties. They have peace officer powers, including the right to arrest. One constable is elected to each county commission or magistrate district; Jefferson County has three.
After city-county merger in 2003, county commissioners were
stripped of their powers along with old Fiscal Court, which was replaced by the
Metro Council. The positions remain on the ballot in Jefferson County even
though the offices come with no pay and no duties.
After the shooting, the Louisville Metro Council approved stiffer restrictions on constables' use of uniforms, which can no longer resemble police or sheriff's deputies, and prohibited them from carrying badges.
In late 2011, some Louisville Metro Council members concerned about the shooting investigated restricting his activities within the county.
Councilman Kelly Downard, R-16th District, who helped lead the effort to curb the use of firearms by constables, said in an interview that he hopes Whitlock's "judgment has been significantly increased since that time.
"At the time, we had problems with it. But it's America and he can run and voters can do what they want."