LMPD officer felt children were in imminent danger when he shot at man pointing AR-15 at a school
Given the power of the weapon, Officer Jeff Emerich said if he didn’t open fire, he felt there was a "serious risk the suspect would kill a child" or other officers.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- When Shelby Traditional Elementary School security officer Jeffrey Johnson heard there might be a man with a gun outside the school on Oct. 19, he looked out the library window and saw two men, one pointing a rifle at the kindergarten classroom "in a spraying motion," according to court records.
The children were not in the classroom at the time and the man soon pointed the weapon at officers approaching him, Johnson told police, adding that he then heard gunshots.
A summary of Johnson's interview and others who were in the school as well as police officers sheds more light on a chaotic scene outside the school that morning.
A teacher told police two men were outside the elementary school, one with an AR-15 rifle, and that the school had been locked down. Police say they were on the scene within two minutes.
When Officer Jeff Emerich arrived, he said he saw a man pointing a rifle at the school "in a threatening manner" and fired at him, "fearing for eminent [sic] danger" to the kids at the school, according to a summary of a police interview with Emerich.
"Knowing what type of rifle he had, 'the serious threat of injury or death' that can be brought to them, I fired two rounds at the suspect," Emerich said. The man dropped his weapon and fled.
A picture in court records shows the weapon on the ground, with the school located at 735 Ziegler Street directly behind it. No one was injured in the shooting. The school was placed on a Level IV heightened security as police searched for the suspect.
Rodriq Buchanan, 22, was arrested in a field in the 1400 block of Bland Avenue near East Hill Street. He was charged with wanton endangerment, tampering with physical evidence, unlawful possession of a weapon on school property and fleeing police. He has pleaded not guilty.
There is no evidence in the records that Buchanan ever fired his weapon. The second man at the scene was not charged.
In the evidence filed in his case this week, Buchanan admitted he had a .22 caliber rifle and "should not have had the weapon on school property," according to a summary of his statements to police.
He acknowledged the gun was loaded but said he did not fire a shot and took off running, dropping his weapon, when an officer shot at him.
Buchanan said he was outside his grandmother's home with the weapon because he feared he was going to be robbed by another man.
Allison Martin, a spokeswoman for Jefferson County Public Schools, initially told a reporter in November that no students were in danger. And a note JCPS sent home with students that day said nothing happened on the school's campus and the security level was raised "as a precaution."
Shelby Traditional Principal Kim Goff told parents in the letter that she wanted to make sure parents had "accurate information to dispel any rumors you may hear about the situation."
Johnson, a Clark County Sheriff’s Deputy, told Louisville police that day that the man was "a clear and present danger to everyone and anyone that might have been walking down the street.
"He had no regard to anyone's safety, the pointing the weapon at the school made me take a personal interest in making sure you all new I saw every little detail of his actions."
Alison Dahlgren, assistant vice-principal at Shelby, told police she also saw a man pointing a weapon at the school, according to court records.
At the time the letter was sent to parents, Martin told a reporter, the LMPD investigation was ongoing and the sightings by school officials were unverified.
The next day, the school sent an updated note to parents. In it, Goff said, "Police report and witnesses confirm there was a man with a gun in the vicinity of the school, and possibly on the property of the school."
Officer Emerich told police that he is familiar with all of the school windows near where the gunman was and "felt the suspect was a threat to the kids."
Given the power of the weapon, Emerich said if he didn't open fire, he felt there was a "serious risk the suspect would kill a child" or other officers.
Emerich has had his police powers suspended and was put on administrative leave following the shooting. LMPD did not immediately respond to a request for his current status.
Buchannan is lodged in Metro Correction on a $75,000 cash bond. He has pleaded not guilty.
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