SUNDAY SIDEBAR | Internal memo sheds more light on police action - WDRB 41 Louisville News

SUNDAY SIDEBAR | Internal memo sheds more light on police actions night of March 22 violence

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LOUISVILLE, Ky., (WDRB) -- The Louisville Metro Police commanders in charge the night of the March 22 mob violence both felt they had enough staff working the streets and believe they made good decisions having officers stay visible to try and “get ahead on the group to prevent any further acts of violence.”

In a summary of events written last month, police acknowledged some mistakes were made and that as the violence spread, they had no “idea there had been an event at Waterfront and that the smaller groups were potentially sub-sections of a larger group of kids from the Waterfront.”

WDRB.com obtained the “Waterfront Incident Summary of Events” memo through an open records request asking for all internal correspondence Police Chief Steve Conrad had with police officials, the mayor’s office and metro council members.

Deputy Police Chief Yvette Gentry talked to the commanders and prepared the memo, at the end offering recommendations on how to “better prepare for future events.”

In an interview, Gentry said she agreed with commanders that they handled the incidents as well as possible in dealing with a three hour rampage that spanned two dozen blocks.

She said the two commanders supervising that night were both involved in active arrests stemming from the violence and didn’t have a “birds-eye view” necessary to link the spreading violence until 40 minutes after it began.

Had police known that there was an event going on at the Waterfront and the events were related, Gentry said, police would have had a much bigger presence there and been better prepared for spreading violence.

Officials have said police have begun monitoring social media much more closely to watch for such events.

Police realized the magnitude of what was happening March 22 about 40 minutes after the first person was attacked at Waterfront park, when a massive group of juveniles connected at the White Castle at 1st and Market. Until that point, police were seeing groups of no more than 15 juveniles and responded accordingly, according to the memo.

Typically, when large groups of juveniles gather at the Waterfront, they often head toward Beecher Terrace, a downtown public housing complex the memo said.

This time, however, the juveniles split up in groups of 8 and 15 and went west and south.

“Things were beginning to pop-up in other areas,” according to the account.

However, both supervisors who described the events that night say they had enough officers working on the street and had support from both K-9 and the Viper units and were “confident that it was not necessary to call for additional support from other divisions.”

Once the supervisors realized that the incidents could have stemmed from one event, they contacted their division commander and told him about the multiple attacks on what appeared to be randomly selected victims.

“They reiterated that they felt they made good decisions by having their officers stay visible in the area and try to get ahead on the group to prevent any further acts of violence,” according to the memo.

“I stand by a lot of decisions they made,” Gentry said of the commanders on March 22.

Gentry said, however, that there are some things that should change.

Among other recommendations in Gentry’s memo were how to deal with multiple victims during incidents. Gentry said, according to the memo, that the department will have the victims go directly to police headquarters and will dispatch officers to meet them for a report and medical help if necessary.

And police will try to complete “field contacts” on as many juveniles as possible in order to make later identifications easier, according to the memo.

In the summary of events from the March 22 mob violence from the police supervisors on duty that night, police did not take a report from the first man assaulted, on the Big Four Bridge, because he “wanted to leave the area and get his family home; he did not wish to stay there at the time and file a report.”

Police officials have since acknowledged it was a mistake not to file a report on that assault.

Instead, when police were approached by a man who said a few young men had a gun – the officers left the elderly man – found the gun and made an arrest.

A police sergeant was then flagged down and told about a 13-year-old had who been assaulted as well as a man who came to her aid. The sergeant thought other juveniles near the scene may have been involved in the assault but the victim was only able to positively identify one person, who was arrested after a struggle.

About 40 minutes later, an officer made a run to the White Castle at 1st and Market and called for additional police to help with a group of 50 to 60 young people on the lot.

The officers ushered the kids towards a bus stop, where the juveniles claimed to be heading.

“They (police) did not witness any crimes occurring and did not have any cause to make arrests,” according to the memo.

The Sergeant at the scene contacted MetroSafe to get in touch with TARC and “asked them to expedite a bus to their location.”

When the bus arrived, half of the group was allowed on and a second bus was dispatched for the rest of the juveniles – estimated at 20 to 25 people.

TARC supervisors followed the bus west in case there were problems.

The next call, according to the summary, came from Baders at 1st and Market streets, involving a lady who had been assaulted in front of her children and locked herself in the store’s bathroom.

Police then made runs to the Courier-Journal and additional areas as the mob moved further west.

“From the accounts of the supervisors on duty that night it was obviously a very busy evening for them and things were beginning to pop-up in other divisions,” according to the memo.

And, as they have said publicly, police said in the internal correspondence that this was not a typical event and not expected to occur again.

“This kind of violence activity we saw on Saturday is not normal for the park, downtown or any neighborhood in Louisville,” Chief Steve Conrad wrote to Kip Eatherly, legislative aid for Glen Stuckel, R-17 on March 25.

Eatherly had asked what police planned on doing to prevent that type of incident from happening again.

Conrad replied that the March 22 incident was “truly unique” and police believed “things will return to normal in the park.

“But to help people feel more comfortable, we have pledged to have an enhanced police presence in and around the park for the foreseeable future.”

Related:

SUNDAY EDITION | Police official pitches for statewide curfew in wake of mob violence

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