LMPD officer keeps job despite misconduct conviction and finding - WDRB 41 Louisville News

LMPD officer keeps job despite misconduct conviction and findings he lied, used excessive force

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Officer Zechariah Aubrey during his March criminal trial Officer Zechariah Aubrey during his March criminal trial

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Louisville Metro Police Officer Zechariah Aubrey has been allowed to keep his job despite being convicted by a jury of misconduct in March and recent findings from an internal investigation that he used excessive force and lied to investigators. 

Chief Steve Conrad last week overruled the findings by his Professional Standards Unit and went against his own initial intention to terminate Aubrey, instead suspending the officer for 20 days.

In March, a Jefferson Circuit Court jury convicted Aubrey of official misconduct for his actions after a June 13, 2016 wreck at Taylorsville Road and Lowe Road while he was off duty. Aubrey exited his personal vehicle with his gun drawn and approached Justin Cook, who started recording with his cell phone,

Aubrey claimed Cook was slumped over in the front seat from a heroin overdose, and when he told Cook to get out of the car, Cook refused and put the car in reverse.

During the trial, jurors were shown the profanity-laced video of Aubrey yelling at Cook. Witnesses described Aubrey kicking and beating Cook. One witness said she thought the officer was going to kill him. Cook, who was arrested the day of the incident, has since pleaded guilty to driving under the influence.

The jury found Aubrey guilty of one count of official misconduct but acquitted him of a second count of official misconduct, as well as charges of terroristic threatening and harassment. He was ordered to pay a fine and court costs. 

On June 30, Conrad notified Aubrey that he intended to fire the officer because of the conviction, and sustained internal findings of use of profanity – saying the word “f---“ 43 times during the arrest - kicking Cook “without any justification,” conduct unbecoming and lying to an investigator, according to LMPD records. 

Conrad wrote in a memo that Aubrey gave “false statements” to an investigator, alleging that Cook ran from the scene of the wreck and the officer had to "perform a takedown to control him.”

Findings of untruthfulness can heavily damage an officer's career because their credibility could become an issue in every court case. 

And Aubrey was found to have taken out an arrest warrant on someone while his police powers had been suspended and used the department’s warrant system to see if police had taken a warrant out against him.

“I cannot tolerate unnecessary force, verbal abuse, and untruthfulness by an officer of the Louisville Metro Police Department,” Conrad wrote in the June 30 memo. “Your conduct demands your termination. I have the utmost confidence in my decision to terminate your employment for the best interest” of the department.

But, as is typical, Aubrey was given a chance to appeal the termination to Conrad. On July 24, after meeting with the chief, the allegations of use of force and untruthfulness were “not sustained,” meaning Conrad found there was not enough evidence, according to police guidelines. 

Instead of termination, Aubrey was suspended for 20 days.

Asked why Conrad went against the findings of the internal investigation and changed his mind on firing Aubrey, police declined to comment. 

Attorney David Leightty, who represented Aubrey in his internal discipline case, did not immediately respond to a message left at his office.

Attorney Steve Schroering, who represented Aubrey in his criminal case, said the officer was allowed to present his side to Conrad and the chief "determined the appropriate penalty would be a 20-day suspension after that hearing." 

Cook, meanwhile, filed a lawsuit on July 25 against Aubrey, LMPD and the city, claiming he was assaulted by police and requesting unspecified monetary damages and a jury trial.

The police department and city do not discuss pending litigation.

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