LMPD says officer, accused of racial slur, now retired
Chief Steve Conrad: “If Retired Sergeant Jason Lainhart was an active member of the Louisville Metro Police Department he would receive severe discipline up to and including termination."
LOUISVILLE, Ky., (WDRB) – The Louisville Metro Police Department has closed an investigation into an audio recording of a 2015 traffic stop in which a white officer repeatedly curses three black men and calls them “f---ing monkeys.”
The audio was recorded on a cell phone by one of the men, Marcel Williams Jr., after he and two others were approached by officers near the Big Four Bridge on March 21, 2015.
Police Chief Steve Conrad closed the investigation on Thursday because the officer who made the comments has retired since the incident.
“If Retired Sergeant Jason Lainhart was an active member of the Louisville Metro Police Department he would receive severe discipline up to and including termination,” Conrad wrote in a memo closing the case. Lainhart retired in January.
Through an internal investigation, Conrad determined Lainhart violated police procedures involving courtesy and conduct, using “vulgar and racially offensive language.”
Two officers whose names were on Williams’ arrest slip were cleared because Conrad said they did not hear what Lainhart said or make any inappropriate comments themselves.
WDRB News obtained the audio in April and played it for police officials in May, prompting the investigation.
Lainhart did not immediately return a phone message left at his home.
Williams, a substitute teacher, said he, his cousin and a friend were recording themselves rapping when an officer approached his vehicle, opened the door and “smacked” him, believing Williams had put drugs in his mouth. They were all charged with possession of marijuana. Williams was also cited for misdemeanor possession of a controlled substance.
WDRB did not name the two officers listed on the citations because it was unclear whether they were the only officers who responded. Williams also did not know the name of the officer who made the offensive remarks, but said he was white.
The phone was still recording and captured the interaction, according to Williams.
“What did you just put in your mouth?” an officer now identified as Lainhart said. “Open your mouth.”
“I don’t have anything in there,” said Williams, his voice muffled.
Williams said the officer dug his fingers into his mouth at the time. Williams denied putting any drugs in his mouth.
“Stupid mother f---er,” Lainhart is heard saying, according to the audio.
“Dang sir,” Williams said.
“Yeah, ‘dang,’ I saw what you did,” the officer responds. “Over what? Some weed, is that what is was? Or the pills right there? You didn’t get them all, you stupid f---.”
Williams said he had legal prescription pain pills after suffering a spinal cord injury playing football for Central High School in 2004.
“Put your hands on the ceiling, every one of you,” Lainhart said.
“Yes, sir,” Williams responded.
Reached on Thursday, Williams said that without body camera video, it is impossible to tell if any other officers said anything or hear Lainhart's comments.
"I didn't wanted to get anybody fired," Williams said. "I wanted change in the department."
In a previous interview with WDRB, Williams said the officers pulled their weapons.
“Let’s see what the f--- did you just put down in there,” the officer said. He does not identify himself at any point during the audio, which played for 45 seconds before the interaction and then in silence for several minutes after the men were handcuffed and sat on a curb.
“You f---ing monkeys, you know?” the officer said, according to the audio.
Lainhart joined the police department in 1997.
Williams said in a May interview that the actions of the officer were upsetting, but that he didn’t initially think too much about it until he later learned he had recorded the incident and played it for friends, family and his defense attorney.
“He said ‘monkey’ like that meant something to him, like old times back in the 40s and 50s, like, ‘I’m insulting you and I want you to know it,’” Williams said. “Kind of made me feel just small, real low.”
Williams denied he put anything in his mouth or that he was smoking marijuana. He said the pills police found were pain medicine, for which he had a prescription.
Williams said he is on pain medication because he broke his neck when he was a 16-year-old football player for Central High School in 2004. He was paralyzed when he tried to tackle a runner headfirst, according to news reports.
Doctors said Williams broke two vertebrae in his neck, injuring his spinal cord. He was initially paralyzed from the neck down.
After rehabilitation, he is able to walk, though he staggers a bit. Williams, who has two young children, said he graduated from Spalding University in 2014. He said he is now working towards getting a Master’s degree.
Williams said he decided to come forward with the audio recording after talking with friends and family, feeling he has a responsibility to shed light on what happened.
“Everything they were doing was not protocol,” he said. “Just totally unnecessary. It was not called for.”
Asked if he feels LMPD owes him an apology, Williams said he instead hopes police will take the issue seriously and try to prevent it from happening again.
“What I want to hear is that it will never happen again, not only to me, but to others,” he said. “I’m calm, laid back, collected. I’m glad I was able to keep my composure. But I don’t feel everyone else would. I know my father, If my father had been sitting in that car, he’d be dead.”
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