Former police officer suing Prospect and Louisville to keep Facebook messages private in LMPD Explorer investigation

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The former assistant police chief of Prospect told a Louisville Metro Police recruit that, if he catches juveniles smoking marijuana, he should "shoot them” if they are black, according to documents released Friday.

Todd Shaw, who resigned from the suburban Louisville department late last year, sent several “highly disturbing racist and threatening Facebook messages” to the recruit, Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell wrote in a letter to Prospect Mayor John Evans on Aug. 31.

Shaw had fought to keep the messages private after media outlets requested them under Kentucky’s open records law. Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Judith McDonald-Burkman ruled this week that the records must be released.

Shaw was initially suspended with pay on Sept. 1. Prospect Police Chief Jeff Sherrard was not in the office Friday and could not be reached for comment. 

In an interview, Evans said that after receiving O'Connell's letter, "the human reaction would be to fire" Shaw, but the department needed to conduct its own investigation. 

After Sherrard "began his examination of the messages ... it soon became apparent to him" that Shaw had violated police standards, according to a press release sent out by Evans Friday afternoon. Shaw was suspended giving the department "additional time to review the matter." The city said it followed the disciplinary protocol established by the city's "Police Officer Bill of Rights."

When Sherrard later presented the findings to Shaw on Nov. 20, Shaw resigned, Evans said. 

Evans said the messages were not sent on city computers or telephones and they find them "abhorrent, disgusting, and, reprehensible," according to the press release. 

"The City of Prospect has zero tolerance for the type of content sent by Shaw," Evans wrote. "... I want to make it crystal clear: neither the City of Prospect, not its citizens, condone, support or endorses the views expressed by Shaw in these postings/messages."

Shaw served with LMPD for more than 20 years before joining the Prospect department in 2012. In one of the Facebook messages, the LMPD recruit asked Shaw what to do in a scenario in which he catches three juveniles smoking marijuana.

The question was part of a paper the recruit was writing about “the right thing to do,” according to O’Connell’s letter.

“F--- the right thing,” Shaw allegedly responded. “If black shoot them.”

And as for what to tell the parents of the juveniles, Shaw said: “… call their (pa)rents … if mom is hot then f--- her … if dad is hot then handcuff him and make him suck my d---,” according to O’Connell’s letter.

Shaw continued, “Unless daddy is black. … Then shoot him.”

Shaw declined to comment on Friday when reached through Facebook. His attorney, Mike Burns, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.   

O’Connell told Evans that prosecutors found the Facebook messages while screening a case for possible criminal prosecution against Shaw.

Shaw was under investigation for allegedly interfering in the sexual abuse probe of the Louisville Metro Police’s Explorer program, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the case. 

“There is no place in police departments for men or women who hold such strongly held prejudices, including recommending shooting people simply because of their race,” O’Connell wrote.  

The LMPD recruit was not named. The recruit sent racist responses to Shaw as well, according to O'Connell's letter. 

LMPD Chief Conrad said the recruit was employed by the department from Oct. 17, 2016 until he resigned on Feb. 27, 2017. 

“I am disgusted by the shocking and appalling statements released today – between the former Prospect Assistant Chief of Police Todd Shaw, and a former LMPD recruit," Conrad said in a statement. 

Had the department known about the messages, "he would never have been considered for employment. These atrocious, racist attitudes have no place in society – anywhere," Conrad wrote. "Any person, who holds these thoughts, has no business ever donning a uniform and representing those who have sworn to serve every member of every community. These actions spit in the face of the determined effort hundreds of thousands of law enforcement officers put forth to build trust and legitimacy in the communities they serve.”

In the August letter, O’Connell told Evans his office would not move forward with any prosecutions in which Shaw might be called to testify, and would notify defense attorneys about the Facebook messages. Prosecutors are in the process of dismissing about two dozen cases because of Shaw's credibility problems.

Shaw, who retired from LMPD as a sergeant in 2009, was investigated for providing illegal assistance to Kenneth Betts, one of two officers charged with committing sexual abuse of teens while with the Louisville department’s Explorer mentoring program.

Shaw's attorney argued in court documents that his client's Facebook messages are "unrelated and not relevant" to LMPD's investigation of the Explorer program.

But Judge McDonald-Burkman ruled Thursday that Shaw was assistant chief -- and for awhile interim chief when Sherrard was on leave -- and "that level of responsibility lends itself to a higher level of public scrutiny."

The judge noted the messages were "embarrassing" for Shaw, but "they are not of the private nature intended to be shielded from public disclosure." She said the messages call Shaw's integrity as a police officer into question. 

In another Facebook message, Shaw told the recruit housing projects needed to be leveled.

"For years I have seen the blacks live off uss (sic) and putting them in one big housing area breeds HUGE peoblems (sic)" Shaw wrote. "We don't see a Muslim problem around here we just see lazy ass people that don't want to work and that entices more Mexicans to cross the border and take the American jobs ... ."

And in a message about Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Shaw said King was "nothing but a raciast (sic) womanizer ... but because someone shot him, I get a day off with pay each year so I will take it."

Last October, as LMPD undercover officers were preparing to serve a search warrant for computers at Betts’ business, Betts allegedly asked Shaw to access the National Crime Information Center database, or NCIC, to run the license plates of the officers to determine their identities, the sources said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss the investigation.

Shaw was accused of ordering a Prospect officer to run the plates for Betts, who was no longer a police officer when he made the request. Betts resigned from LMPD in 2014.

Improperly accessing the NCIC database is a criminal offense. Shaw is under investigation for misdemeanor official misconduct, the sources told WDRB News.

Josh Abner, a spokesman for the Jefferson County Attorney’s office, declined to say if that investigation is ongoing.

Nick Mudd, who represents Shaw in the criminal investigation, said Shaw was cleared of criminal wrongdoing.

Below is the full letter from O'Connell. Warning: it contains extremely graphic language:

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