LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – A Louisville Metro Police officer was forced to testify in a robbery and assault trial on Thursday about several controversial Facebook posts he shared in the wake of protests following police shootings of two black men.
Officer Ryan Scanlan was specifically asked by a defense attorney about a meme he shared picturing a white police officer leaning against his cruiser that said: "If we really wanted you dead all we'd have to do is stop patrolling your neighborhoods. …. And wait."
Asked who the “you” was referring to in the meme, Scanlan said he believed it was directed to “the citizens of the united states of America.”
“So it’s not directed to anybody in particular?” said defense attorney Clay Kennedy. “No racial group?”
“Absolutely not,” Scanlan responded. “You take any neighborhood in America and if they realize the police are not patrolling, crime would go through the roof.”
Earlier this month, Metro Corrections Director Mark Bolton suspended Sgt. Derek Hale for the same post, saying it was "associated with blatant racial bias." Hale later apologized for the post.
"Words alone cannot express how truly sorry I am for the impact my post has had on the community in Louisville, the staff at Louisville Metro Department of Corrections, and on my family," Hale said in a statement. "I accept full responsibility for the tensions it created and will strive tirelessly to bridge the divide between our community members and the law enforcement community.
An LMPD spokesperson has said that an "administrative review" has been initiated by Chief Steve Conrad to "ensure the validity" of the allegations against Scanlan. Sgt. Phil Russell said at the time that social media accounts are "prone to hacktivists posing as officers."
Russell said on Thursday that the investigation is still pending.
Defense attorneys wanted to question Scanlan in front of jurors about his Facebook posts and the internal investigation launched by LMPD.
Scanlan, who is the lead investigator in Charles Evans’ robbery and assault case, first told Judge Steve Mershon that because he under internal police investigation, it was “a violation of his civil rights” to answer any questions.
When Mershon ordered the officer to testify anyway, Scanlan asked the judge to clear the courtroom except for attorneys.
Despite an objection from a defense attorney, Mershon had everyone leave the court and a deputy stood in front of the door to keep people from entering.
A WDRB reporter objected to the judge closing the court during a trial and was eventually allowed in by Mershon.
Judge Mershon would not let jurors hear the testimony but allowed the defense to question Scanlan by avowal, which means the questioning of the witness would be given for the record in case of an appeal.
At one point, Scanlan asked that he be allowed to contact the president of the Fraternal Order of Police. A prosecutor with the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office asked to postpone the questioning so Scanlan could have an attorney present.
Mershon denied the continuance and allowed the questioning to continue.
Scanlan acknowledged in court that he shared the memes on his Facebook page.
Among the memes was one about the Black Lives Matter movement.
"Has it occurred to anyone that if you're able to organize this many people for a protest" the meme starts, with the words on top of a picture of dozens of black people holding a Black Lives Matter banner. "You can organize this many people to clean up your community and get rid of the criminal element causing the problem."
Kennedy asked Scanlan if everyone in the photo was black. The officer said he couldn’t determine that. He also said he didn’t know when he shared either of the memes.
In another post, Scanlan shared a meme headlined, "It’s NOT about color. It’s about the law."
The image featured a series of crudely-drawn figures of people depicting what happens to someone if they don’t move when if an officer tells them to "stop."
If a person stops, the result is getting handcuffed, according to the meme.
But the image associated with not stopping is different. It shows what appears to be a police officer getting attacked, followed by the figure of someone lying on the ground bleeding with three holes in the body and a caricature of an officer handcuffing the person.
"If you understand this … please share. If you are still confused … please keep studying it."
Scanlan said his wife took down his Facebook page.
The posts from Scanlan and Hale's pages came just days after Louisville officials, law enforcement and community activists have called on the city to band together following the shooting of the two black men and sniper shootings in Dallas that left five police officers dead and six injured.
Earlier this year, a Kentucky Court of Appeals judge halted Evans’ trial after Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Olu Stevens attempted to dismiss a jury panel he felt was not representative of the community.
Stevens had sealed the first day of the criminal trial and issued a gag order forbidding prosecutors and defense attorneys from talking about the proceedings - a move deemed "100 percent improper" by a First Amendment attorney.
Stevens was suspended in April pending an investigation by the Kentucky Judicial Conduct Commission into several judicial misconduct charges.
The commission formally charged Stevens with six counts of "misconduct" for his treatment of victims who came before him and public comments the judge made about prosecutors and defense attorneys.
Other Jefferson Circuit Court judges have handled Stevens' cases during his suspension.
A jury later Thursday afternoon acquitted Evans. There were two black jurors.
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