A gun­man opened fire into a crowd at a Louisville park, killing one and in­jur­ing an­other, as peo­ple protested Bre­onna Tay­lor’s death.

1 killed, sus­pect in­jured after gun­man opened fire at a down­town park

The Washington Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY JOSH WOOD, ROBERT KLEMKO, RO­MAN STUBBS AND AVA WAL­LACE robert.klemko@wash­post.com ro­man.stubbs@wash­post.com ava.wal­lace@wash­post.com Adam Ray­mond in Louisville and Julie Tate in Wash­ing­ton con­trib­uted to this re­port.

louisville — Vi­o­lence in­ter­rupted a peace­ful protest at a park here Satur­day when a man al­legedly opened fire into a crowd of protesters, killing a 27-year-old pho­tog­ra­pher.

The sus­pected shooter is in police cus­tody and has been iden­ti­fied as 23-year-old Steven Lopez, au­thor­i­ties said.

In an ar­rest ci­ta­tion, police said video showed Lopez shoot­ing into a large crowd of peo­ple who had gath­ered Satur­day night to protest police bru­tal­ity and the killing of Bre­onna Tay­lor. Sev­eral by­standers shot in Lopez’s di­rec­tion, ac­cord­ing to an ar­rest warrant, wound­ing him in the leg. Lopez is in cus­tody at a hos­pi­tal, au­thor­i­ties said, and no oth­ers were wounded.

The warrant said Lopez, who was born in 1996, has been charged with mur­der and first-de­gree wan­ton en­dan­ger­ment. It is un­clear if Lopez has a lawyer. The Louisville Metro Pub­lic De­fender’s of­fice could not be reached for com­ment.

Robert Schroeder, in­terim Louisville police chief, said Lopez had been ar­rested sev­eral times in re­cent weeks and had been asked to leave the park by other protesters be­cause of his “dis­rup­tive be­hav­ior.”

Louisville Mayor Greg Fis­cher (D) iden­ti­fied the vic­tim as Tyler Gerth, whose fam­ily said in a statement that he was a pho­tog­ra­pher cap­tur­ing images of the protests.

“We are dev­as­tated that his life was taken was from us far too soon. Tyler was in­cred­i­bly kind, ten­der hearted and gen­er­ous, hold­ing deep con­vic­tions and faith,” the statement said. “It was this sense of jus­tice that drove Tyler to be part of the peace­ful demon­stra­tions ad­vo­cat­ing for the de­struc­tion of the sys­temic racism within our so­ci­ety’s sys­tems.”

Ac­tivists have as­sem­bled at Jef­fer­son Square Park for more than a month. The park — a small plaza in the city’s down­town — has be­come an en­camp­ment in re­cent weeks, with protesters sleep­ing overnight in tents, stands of­fer­ing food and sup­plies, and demon­stra­tions against police bru­tal­ity and sys­temic racism tak­ing place dur­ing the day.

Lopez was de­scribed by mul­ti­ple protest at­ten­dees as a man who had been driven from the protest site on pre­vi­ous days for his er­ratic be­hav­ior, in­clud­ing ac­cost­ing ac­tivists. Jeff Gill, who runs the home­less out­reach or­ga­ni­za­tion Hip Hop Cares, said he knew Lopez, who had been stay­ing in the park’s en­camp­ment.

“Ev­ery­body around him was kind of fed up with the things he was do­ing, like him tak­ing things that didn’t be­long to him, say­ing things that set peo­ple off and cause fights. And they wanted him gone,” Gill said.

Fear­ing for Lopez’s safety, Gill said he helped re­move the man from the park twice on Satur­day after Lopez was slapped, punched and threat­ened by oth­ers in the square.

“I truly am hop­ing that the nar­ra­tive from that shoot­ing isn’t driven with con­spir­acy, isn’t driven with the nar­ra­tive of it’s a racial-mo­ti­vated thing,” Gill said. “Last night could have been pre­vented if we didn’t have so many sys­temic is­sues that failed.”

Surveil­lance footage shared by au­thor­i­ties at a news con­fer­ence showed the al­leged shooter in an ap­par­ent con­fronta­tion with sev­eral protesters at the edge of the square be­fore open­ing fire. Videos on so­cial me­dia show protesters flee­ing the area and, in some cases, div­ing and crouch­ing be­hind nearby parked cars, tents and trees as shots are fired.

“None of us wanted to see this area of peace­ful protest be­come a crime scene,” Fis­cher said. He called for the city to unite in the af­ter­math of the shoot­ing and said that it can­not slow or halt ef­forts to in­sti­tute the changes that protesters are de­mand­ing.

Jas­mine Har­ris, a 27-year-old pro­tester, said she and oth­ers were par­tic­i­pat­ing in a mu­sic video when she heard gun­fire.

“All I could hear was: bang, bang. I thought they were fire­works,” she said. She heard four more shots, she said, and saw a man ly­ing on the ground, bleed­ing.

“It was a very good time, we were all get­ting along” be­fore the shoot­ing, Har­ris said. “It was heart­break­ing.”

Early on Sun­day, police an­nounced that although they would con­tinue to al­low peace­ful protests dur­ing the day, they would not per­mit protesters to stay in the park overnight or erect “tents of any kind.”

Shan­non Hig­gins, 37, was hand­ing out slices of pizza to protesters. “I woke up this morn­ing and I saw that home­less peo­ple had lost ev­ery­thing: their tents, their clothes, their food,” Hig­gins said. “Ev­ery­thing that was set up at the camp­site was gone. I just wanted to get up and help serve.

“Now we have to come back to­gether. You have peo­ple who were down here in unity, who were liv­ing here and found so­lace here and it all got swept away. Now that it’s all been swept away, we have to re­build. ”

Schroeder apol­o­gized to protesters for the way in which the park was cleared of tents and sup­plies, say­ing it was not the depart­ment’s in­ten­tion to dam­age be­long­ings, but many items were “treated in a man­ner that is less than our stan­dards. ”

Anti-vi­o­lence ac­tivist Christo­pher 2X, who heads the or­ga­ni­za­tion Game Chang­ers, said the shoot­ing re­flects an epi­demic of gun vi­o­lence that has con­tin­ued to plague Louisville even through­out the pan­demic and re­cent un­rest.

“I would have thought when covid hit that we’d hit the pause but­ton on reck­less shoot­ings around here,” he said. “I re­ally thought it was go­ing to peel the deal back. But I was wrong about that. ”

Louisville has be­come a cen­ter of protests against police bru­tal­ity, with demon­stra­tions re­lated to the fa­tal shoot­ing of Tay­lor in­ten­si­fy­ing and grow­ing after the police killing of Ge­orge Floyd in Min­neapo­lis on May 25. Tay­lor, a 26-year-old EMT, was killed in her home in Louisville by police after they ex­e­cuted a no-knock warrant on March 13.

At least three of­fi­cers were in­volved in the raid, fir­ing into Tay­lor’s apart­ment just after mid­night. In a law­suit filed in April, Tay­lor’s fam­ily said Louisville police ex­e­cuted a search warrant at Tay­lor’s home, look­ing for a man who did not live there. Tay­lor’s boyfriend, Ken­neth Walker, who re­port­edly was a li­censed gun owner, shot at of­fi­cers when they at­tempted to en­ter the apart­ment, and the of­fi­cers re­turned fire.

Tay­lor was shot at least eight times and killed. Au­thor­i­ties have re­leased lit­tle in­for­ma­tion about the killing. It is be­ing in­ves­ti­gated by state and lo­cal au­thor­i­ties and the FBI.

The Louisville police last week fired one of­fi­cer in­volved in the shoot­ing. The city coun­cil voted this month to ban no-knock war­rants, which al­low police to en­ter a home unan­nounced. The June 11 mea­sure to ban the war­rants is known as Bre­onna’s Law.


John Kriner of Jef­fer­son­ville, Ind., prays Sun­day at Jef­fer­son Square Park in Louisville, where police were in­ves­ti­gat­ing a fa­tal shoot­ing at a protest of police bru­tal­ity.

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