Updated: Apr 1, 2022
Chief Erika Shields has cleared a Louisville Metro Police Department officer accused of using excessive force during an arrest at Jefferson Square last year.
On April 18, 2021, Denorver “Dee” Garrett was arrested. During the arrest and while trying to get Garrett to release his arm from underneath his body, a cell phone video showed LMPD Officer Aaron Ambers punching him in the back and head.
Following the incident, Ambers was investigated by the LMPD Professional Standards Unit. Ambers was found not guilty of both the charges of use of force and de-escalation, and Shields wrote in his personnel file that he will face no disciplinary action as a result of her findings.
Garrett has been outspoken during protests in Louisville since the death of Breonna Taylor. He has since appeared and spoken at a number of press conferences since his arrest. He filed a lawsuit against LMPD, alleging that Ambers assaulted him.
Shields explained in Ambers’ personnel file, which was released by LMPD on Thursday, that Garrett was arrested after officers witnessed him standing in the road for much of the day, yelling at passing cars and using a megaphone near the LMPD precinct at South 2nd Street and West Jefferson. Garrett then moved to Jefferson Square Park at South 6th Street and West Jefferson, according to Shields, and began blocking the road while carrying a large cross.
Because officers were already familiar with Garrett, his criminal history, and his behavior at previous protests, a strategy for approaching him after he was seen blocking traffic was created. By the time Garrett was apprehended, body camera footage and dispatch audio confirm that he was already on the sidewalk and not in the street and those de-escalation tactics should have been used against him because Garrett almost immediately became volatile toward the officers.
Shields said that while Garrett was being apprehended, Ambers hit him in the head multiple times in order to get Garrett to release the hand that was not handcuffed. Ambers and his fellow officers involved in Garrett’s arrest, according to the chief, could have made better decisions and “accomplished nothing other than to play into the hands of an attention-seeking individual, who has a documented history of violence..."
The #502LIVEstreamers have reached out to Community Leaders and they have begun to voice their opinions on the decision. Here are a few that we have found thus far:
"Our Law Enforcement department, Corrections departments ALL lack accountability. Unfortunately, this is no surprise in this administration. Even with an actual recording that clearly shows excessive force, clearly. This is why we must have a change of leadership in this city. This is pathetic." - Tim Findley for Mayor
"Thanks for bringing this to my attention. I am disappointed in Chief Shields' response and the lack of Dee Garrett's rights during an arrest. I have said this all along. The police are not judge, jury, and executioner. They are paid enforcers of the law. He was convicted and held accountable by a court of law. No matter what Garrett's past is that was not to be used in the decision-making for that day and moment when he was exercising his right to Protest with his cross in hand. The way he was handled while being nonviolent was another injustice. The officers that stood there and watched that are exactly what has happened in George Floyd, Eric Garner, and too many other police interactions where a black, brown, and poor white person experienced excessive force and sadly even fatality. All mayoral candidates should speak up against police abuse but they won't. When I wanted to be a police officer this is not who I wanted to be. That oath to protect and serve includes Dee Garrett no matter what we like or don't like. You all have to stop just asking the black candidates to respond. This is our life. Ask the white and privileged candidates what would or will they do?" - Shameka Parrish-Wright for Mayor
Kentucky Attorney David Mour and client Dee Garret as well as activist Cheyenne Osula held a press conference to offer information and reaction to Chief Shields' decision to clear Ambers of charges. Interview below...
"I gave up my football career to come down here and protest for Breonna Taylor and was harassed by LMPD. Officers. Detectives. I was in jail for 20 days with no charges. And I'm emotional because, you know, I've been pushing for Unity. That's the crazy thing." ... "My name is being slandered. That's why I'm emotional. Because these are real tears, these aren't fake tears and they hurt. And we say we want Unity. What Metro is showing here in Louisville is that they don't want Unity. They want black people scared of them. Because they can beat you, kill you and get away with it. That's why I'm emotional. I'm scared for my daughter to grow up in Louisville" - Dee Garrett
"I understand Chief Shields said that she wished these officers had done this a different way or they should have done it a different way. I would suggest that not beating the hell out of a man that is being held down on the ground by other police officers. That might be the different way. But how in the heck did they not violate policy if they are saying that originally, this does not comport with our training. If a police officer engages in conduct that is not in compliance with the training, how is he not in violation of policy? How is that officer not in violation of state law in regards to assault on this man?" - Attorney David Mour
Apparently punching someone on the ground, not resisting, in the eye multiple times is an acceptable de-escalation tactic under the Reign of Shields.
Updates to follow as this story continues to develop.
Excerpts from Wave 3. Photos and Videos contributed from Facebook.