LMPD chief won't say how officer was shot during June chase
Asked if police were incorrect in obtaining a search warrant on WDRB, Chief Steve Conrad said the information the station has may be “critical” to the investigation and he didn’t “have a problem with that being done.”
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Louisville Metro Police Chief Steve Conrad declined to comment Thursday when asked if a police officer was shot by a fleeing suspect in June or instead accidentally shot himself in the foot during the chase.
Police have said Dimitri Harris shot at officers while leading them on a foot chase near Kemmons Drive in June, hitting Officer Brad Shouse in the foot.
However, police never charged Harris and he said in an interview with WDRB last week that he didn’t have a gun and the officer instead inadvertently shot himself.
“We’re well aware of the statements he made,” Conrad said in an interview Thursday. But he would not answer when asked directly if the officer shot himself, saying the case was under investigation.
LMPD denied WDRB's request for police-worn camera footage of the incident under Kentucky's open records law, saying the shooting is under investigation.
However, LMPD typically release body camera footage immediately in incidents when officers have shot someone, despite the cases being under investigation.
Conrad said this is a different situation, “where you don’t have the same level of, necessarily, community interest” as when police use deadly force.
Conrad also said the statements Harris made to WDRB are why the department served a search warrant on the station last week, which, as written, would have allowed officers to comb through the newsroom and access computers, notes and unpublished material gathered for a recent news story about a suspect in a police shooting.
A WDRB attorney asked a judge to dismiss the search warrant, arguing it was "clearly illegal" under a federal law meant to protect journalists' First Amendment rights.
On Wednesday, Judge McKay Chauvin said it was the quickest way to ensure the station would not destroy or lose raw video from its interview, but dismissed the warrant and told police to instead issue a subpoena to WDRB.
That would allow the station to present any arguments in court and a judge to hear both sides.
Asked if police were incorrect in obtaining a search warrant, Conrad said the information WDRB has may be “critical” to the investigation and he didn’t “have a problem with that being done.”
“However, that being said, we do learn from every experience, and with that it looks like coming at it with a subpoena or a court order may be a better way to go,” Conrad said. “And based on the directions from a judge, that’s exactly what we are going to do.”
WDRB has not yet received a subpoena for the raw video from the Harris interview.
Jon Fleischaker, an attorney representing WDRB, said it was the first time he has seen such a warrant signed by a judge in at least the last 40 years, when federal law prohibited law enforcement agencies from serving search warrants on news organizations except in extremely rare cases.
“There are very serious First Amendment concerns about allowing the police to interfere, in essence, in protected activities,” Fleischaker said in an interview Tuesday. “I’m very surprised by this. I think a lot of people would be surprised by this.”
At a hearing Wednesday, Chauvin questioned why WDRB would hesitate to turn over the materials police want.
"What's the problem with (providing the) raw footage?" Chauvin asked WDRB Attorney Jeremy Rogers, talking about video of the interview that is not shown to viewers. "It seems like something that is very doable."
WDRB typically does not provide raw video or any notes or other news gathering materials to law enforcement, said Jennifer Keeney, the station's assistant news director.
WDRB has agreed to preserve the raw video.
The station was ordered to appear in court Tuesday afternoon to show why it should not be held in contempt for failing to comply with the search warrant. LMPD had chosen not to enforce the warrant, and the station had not complied with it.
"They need to get what they need to get," Chauvin said of police. "And you're not in the business of preventing that to which they are entitled."
Harris, 24, is currently on house arrest for violating his probation in a previous case. He admits he ran from police that night because he had a warrant for his arrest. But he said he didn’t have a gun.
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