LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Two people in camouflage who had rifles atop a downtown parking garage during a racial justice protest in June told police they were "militia" members watching over officers, according to an incident report.
A 21-year-old man and a 17-year-old male were restrained and detained but eventually taken by police to South Third Street and West Broadway and released after their weapons were confiscated. The encounter lasted about two hours.
The men were not charged. It is legal to openly carry a firearm in public in Kentucky.
Police initially said the SWAT team found the men around 11 p.m on June 29 after the Louisville Metro Police air unit observed them on the garage during protests over the police killing of Breonna Taylor.
A chronology of events provided by police, however, shows that 911 calls that night first alerted police that men were on top of the garage with weapons.
"On the top level, we've got two men up there with rifles," a woman told a 911 dispatcher, according to a call released by police.
SWAT team members found the man and the teen a few minutes later on the Hyatt Regency parking garage rooftop, according to police records obtained by WDRB News.
The guns, one of which had a bipod attached, were taken because the man and the teen could not immediately prove ownership, police have said.
Two men wearing camo with long guns were spotted by the @LMPD air unit on top of a downtown parking garage just before 11 pm Sunday. SWAT found the men but didn't charge them because this is not a crime. Their guns were taken until they can prove ownership. pic.twitter.com/euH2ZoASpL— Jason Riley (@JasonRileyWDRB) June 30, 2020
The incident report said a .30-30 Winchester rifle, a Ruger bolt-action with a scope and live rounds were seized for "safekeeping."
The two men would not identify which militia they belonged to and said that they were dropped off at the garage by a friend.
In a field labeled "bias motivation," police typed "none, no bias," according to the documents.
Louisville attorney David Mour, who has filed a lawsuit over the incident, criticized the actions by police, saying, "I guarantee if that was a Black kid, he would have been arrested."
Mour, whose lawsuit claims police either refused to provide records from the incident or failed to do so in the time specified under state law, was also incredulous that officers gave the two men a ride, he said, to meet up with friends.
"What kind of police in that circumstance give potential snipers a ride?" he said. He also said the weapons were later returned to the men.
The 21-year-old man identified himself as a sovereign citizen. Members of the sovereign citizen movement reject the legitimacy of common institutions, from the legal system to police authority.
Members believe that, although they live in the U.S., they are separate and not bound by the country’s laws.
The 17-year-old’s name was redacted on the incident report because he is a juvenile. WDRB is not naming the 21-year-old, who lives in Louisville, because he has not been charged with a crime or arrested.
At the time of the incident, people were continuing to protest in and around Jefferson Square Park in response to the shooting death of Taylor in March.
Mour's lawsuit, filed earlier in July in Jefferson Circuit Court, is requesting a judge order police to turn over requested records immediately and award damages of $25 for each day the documents are withheld.
Police also did not respond to WDRB’s open records request until late last week. The station requested the documents on July 6; by law, public agencies must respond to records requests within 10 calendar days.
LMPD does not comment on pending litigation.
Mour said the records he has received so far have already cast doubt on the police department's official explanation, pointing out, for example, that it was citizens calling 911 to alert police to the men with rifles.
"This is the value of the open records law," he said. "This is something that looked bad from the beginning."
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