Shooting of homeless man by LMPD officers was 'justified' top prosecutor finds (WARNING: GRAPHIC)

William Young Jr. was shot by Louisville Metro Police officers in a house near Churchill Downs in February 2017.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A federal judge dismissed a wrongful death lawsuit against three Louisville Metro Police officers, ruling that William Young Jr. threatened an officer with “serious physical harm” by lunging at him with a metal skewer after officers approached him in an abandoned home in 2017.

“This was not a will-he-or-won’t-he situation,” U.S. District Court Judge Benjamin Beaton wrote in his July 1 ruling. “Young did not respond to the officers’ calls, hid in the dark, immediately lunged at Officer (Russell) Braun when the flashlight revealed his position, and tried to stab him in the upper body with a metal skewer.

“The officers’ gunshots almost certainly prevented Young from stabbing and seriously injuring Officer Braun.”

The suit also named officers Randall Richardson and Paige Young.

Young’s family filed the lawsuit in August 2017, claiming he was mentally ill and homeless, and the officers who shot him in an abandoned house near Churchill Downs in February of that year were out of control, shooting the 31-year-old about a dozen times with “minimal or no provocation.”

And the suit also focused on the officers’ actions before the shooting, claiming, in part, they were familiar with Young, knew he was in the home and was not a threat and shouldn’t have put themselves in the position where they felt they needed to shoot Young.

Attorney Greg Belzley, who represents the family, filed an appeal on July 2 with the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.

“We’re very disappointed in the decision,” Belzley said in an interview Tuesday. “As I think the Breonna Taylor case made very clear, it is essential that the decision making or what leads police to be where they are when they start pulling the triggers of their weapons makes a difference. The mere fact police have the right to protect themselves from threats should not prevent an inquiry into whether they were irresponsible for putting themselves in that position in the first place.”

However, the judge ruled that the actions leading up to the shooting were immaterial and noted that the officers announced themselves repeatedly.

Police have said the officers were responding to a report of a home break-in.

A spokeswoman for the department declined to comment on the ruling and said all of the officers are still with LMPD. 

The Jefferson Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office ruled in January 2018 that the officers were “justified in using deadly physical force” and would not face criminal charges in Young’s death.

The shooting was captured on police body cameras.

When the officers arrive, they discuss that it may be a person squatting in the home.

The officers announce they were police and moved up the stairwell. When Braun turned into a room at the top of the stairs, Young is crouching in the corner, according to the video.

He then lunges toward officers who immediately open fire.  

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Jason Riley is a criminal justice reporter for WDRB.com. He joined WDRB News in 2013 after 14 years with The Courier-Journal. He graduated from Western Kentucky University. Jason can be reached at 502-585-0823 and jriley@wdrb.com.