By Chris Hoenig
Police shootings are seemingly out of control in Louisville, Ky.
The Courier-Journal, a Louisville-based Gannett newspaper, led its Sunday edition with a feature on the spike in police-involved fatalities in 2014. Editors even designed a powerful front page to highlight the story.
And then they ruined it.
Instead of just delivering the paper to subscribers and newsstands with the striking collage of all of those wounded, injured, involved and killed in police shootings since 2005, they sent the papers out with an ad wrap covering the left half of the page.
An ad for sales at a gun store.
Police-involved shootings and killings have been at the forefront since the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Tamir Rice at the hands of police officers in Ferguson, Mo., New York City and Cleveland.
In Louisville, five people have been shot and killed by police officers in 2014, more deaths than the last five years combined. Two of those killed were Black men; a third was a Black woman.
Sixteen men and women have been shot to death by officers since 2005, 20 have been wounded and two have committed suicide during confrontations with Louisville Metro Police officers.
Local Councilwoman Attica Scott wrote an open letter published in The Courier-Journal to her teenage son, questioning whether police officers have a “license to kill unarmed Black teens.”
“We need to have ‘the talk’ with our police departments,” she wrote. “We are tired of paying you to kill our children.”
The column was condemned by Louisville Metro Police Sergeant Dave Mutchler.
“If you look at the atmosphere right now, we have people condemning every police officer in the United States. We’re all racists, we want to kill people, we want to hurt people,” said Mutchler, who is also president of the River City Fraternal Order of Police. “That’s a ridiculous way of thinking and not based on any fact or evidence. And it’s not fair. If the police were to categorize a group of people like that, we would be demonized. And we should be.”
Louisville has a long history of racial tensions. In 1968, protests turned violent after the Louisville police reinstated a white officer who had been accused of beating a Black man weeks earlier.
In 2002, Louisville Police Chief Gene Sherrard was fired by then-Mayor David Armstrong after he honored two white officers who killed an unarmed Black man three years earlier, presenting them with an award for exceptional valor.
That helped lead to the 2003 creation of the Louisville Metro Police Department, combining the Louisville and Jefferson County police departments. But the police shootings—and surrounding controversies—didn’t end.
In 2004, Louisville Metro Police Officer McKenzie Mattingly, who is white, shot and killed 19-year-old Black suspect Michael Newby during an undercover drug deal gone bad. While Newby did have a handgun in his waistband, a police investigation found that Mattingly did not face an immediate threat, and he was fired and charged criminally.
Though Mattingly was acquitted of all charges later that year, the city paid Newby’s mother $250,000 in 2008 to settle a lawsuit.