LOUISVILLE, Ky. — When it comes to allegations of Louisville Metro Police misconduct, the FBI has had plenty to investigate.
Since the shooting death of Breonna Taylor at the hands of police in March 2020, the FBI Louisville Field Office has opened several investigations into LMPD officers.
The oldest, which predates Taylor’s death, is the five-year probe into the sex abuse scandal in the police department’s Explorer Scout program, which was initiated in 2017.
The remaining open cases stem from police incidents mostly related to the social justice protests following Taylor’s death. Here’s a look at where those cases stand.
Louisville Police Explorer Scout case
The FBI is nearing the end of its five-year investigation into the child sex abuse scandal that occurred in the Louisville Metro Police Department’s Scout Explorer program.
The scandal came to light in 2017 when a 22-year-old filed a lawsuit alleging he was abused by LMPD officers Kenneth Betts and Brandon Wood when he was between 17 and 19 years both in their homes and in police cars.
The lawsuit also said the police department and lieutenant who ran the program conspired to cover up the abuse.
Mayor Greg Fischer in 2017 hired a former U.S. attorney to investigate independently and requested an FBI investigation.
The federal investigation, which is still ongoing, led to the conviction of three LMPD officers, including Betts, Wood and Brad Lee Schuhmann, for deprivation of rights, attempted enticement, possession and distribution of child porn and the transfer of obscene material to a minor.
The case also revealed that the officers propositioned, molested or intimated more than a dozen former Scouts in the program.
Authorities said they expect a decision from the U.S. Attorney’s Office soon on whether there will be further prosecutions.
The death of Breonna Taylor
Federal authorities, including the Louisville FBI and the Civil Rights Division in Washington D.C., continue to investigate the death of Breonna Taylor, an unarmed Black ER tech killed by Louisville police who were trying to conduct a search for drugs and cash on March 13, 2020.
In May 2020, the FBI opened its “color of law” case, meaning it is investigating allegations of police officers or other officials improperly using their authority, including excessive force, false arrest or obstruction of justice.
Taylor, 26, died at her South Louisville apartment when Louisville Metro Police officers attempted to serve a search warrant as a part of a broader narcotics investigation targeting several homes simultaneously.
After police forced open Taylor’s front door, Kenneth Walker, her boyfriend at the time, fired one shot, striking Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly in the thigh. Mattingly, and detectives Myles Cosgrove and Brett Hankison fired 32 times in response, killing Taylor.
Walker said he never heard officers announce themselves at the door and thought intruders were trying to break in.
Mattingly was cleared of wrongdoing by an LMPD investigation into policy violations but retired from the force in June 2021. Cosgrove and Hankison have been fired, as has detective Joshua Jaynes, who obtained the search warrant with a no-knock clause. Jaynes is still trying to get his job back and recently lost his appeal to a circuit judge.
Hankison was acquitted by a jury in state court on three counts of first-degree wanton endangerment for bullets that penetrated an occupied apartment next to Taylor’s.
The death of David McAtee
The FBI is investigating the death of David McAtee, a West End barbecue shop owner who was fatally shot by the Kentucky National Guard after authorities, including LMPD, were sent to 26th and Broadway to disperse a crowd that had gathered across the street on June 1, 2020.
Though social justice protests had started in Louisville just days earlier, the crowd was not protesting, but rather violating the mayor’s 9 p.m. curfew.
McAtee fired two shots outside the door of his home and business, YaYa’s BBQ, after his niece was shot with pepper balls in their doorway by LMPD Officer Katie Crews.
Seconds before his niece was hit, people from the street rushed into McAtee’s business while fleeing Crews’ pepper balls.
Crews was charged federally with excessive use of force for shooting at McAtee’s niece, but the case remains open.
Crews was fired in February at the conclusion of an internal Professional Standards Unit investigation that found she violated several department policies — including de-escalation, use of chemical agents and body camera procedures — leading to McAtee’s death.
The internal investigation found that Crews didn’t have permission to use the pepper ball gun, and that she shouldn’t have fired the rounds because the crowd was neither “disorderly” nor “aggressive.”
Dusten Dean, the officer who fired nonlethal rounds at a TV crew
An LMPD officer who was captured live on camera shooting nonlethal pepper ball rounds directly at a local television news crew during the city’s social justice protests is under federal investigation.
WAVE 3 TV news reporter Kaitlin Rust and cameraman James Dobson were both hit by Dean’s pepper balls on May 29, 2020, while standing behind the police line. A statement from WAVE said the crew was not interfering with law enforcement.
Rust told The Courier Journal in 2021 she was interviewed by the FBI later that summer and shared a January email from an FBI victim specialist that included a case number and a note thanking her for her assistance while they investigate the case.
A list of officers on investigative leave obtained by The Courier Journal through a public records request indicates Dean has been on paid suspension at home since June 2, 2020, while the department conducts a Public Integrity Unit investigation to determine whether there was any criminal wrongdoing.
Officers who threw drinks at residents
Two former Louisville police officers pled guilty on June 21 to conspiracy to violate civil rights — a federal crime — for throwing large beverages and the containers at numerous Louisville residents while on duty in unmarked police cars.
Curt Flynn, 40, and Bryan Andrew Wilson, 36, are both scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 30. They face a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
From August 2018 through September 2019, the two officers while working as detectives in LMPD’s Ninth Mobile Division in uniform would bring the beverages into their vehicle and get close enough to throw the drinks at targets they identified.
They would speed off after throwing the drinks, according to a news release from the Justice Department.
At least one victim was knocked onto the ground from the impact of the beverage container and “many” others were hit.
Wilson or Flynn would sometimes get on the police radio and announce “someone was thirsty” or “thirsty fam.” Both would also either record their actions on a cell phone from inside the vehicle or instruct another LMPD officer to record from a vehicle following closely behind and then show the videos to other officers in the unit.
Wilson was placed on administrative light duty in October 2019 and resigned in July 2020 related to another criminal investigation. Flynn was put on administrative light duty in June 2021 and resigned from the department the day he pleaded guilty, according to LMPD Chief Erika Shields.
Shields in a statement apologized to those affected by their conduct and said she’s initiating a Professional Standards Unit investigation to determine other officers’ level of knowledge or involvement.
“I want to make it clear to everyone the actions of former detectives Flynn and Wilson are reprehensible, sickening and do not reflect the core values of LMPD. Their behavior was demoralizing and dehumanizing to the victims,” she said.
Officer extorted women for compromising photos
Wilson, one of the officers who pled guilty in the drink-throwing conspiracy, also pled guilty to conspiracy to commit cyberstalking, another federal charge.
In the fall of 2020, Wilson used an electronic communication service to harass, intimidate and cause emotional distress to at least six women.
As part of the conspiracy, he hacked computer applications belonging to the women to steal compromising” photos, videos and other information that he would then threaten to publish unless they provided additional compromising material to him, according to a news release from the Justice Department.
Wilson, combined with the charge for conspiring to violate civil rights, faces a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison. He will be sentenced Sept. 30 in both cases.
Aaron Ambers, the officer who punched a protester in the face:
An officer caught on video punching a protester in the face during an arrest in April 2021 is under federal investigation.
Aaron Ambers was exonerated by an internal Professional Standards Unit investigation released in March.
It found Ambers didn’t violate policies on de-escalation and use of physical force when he punched protester Dee Garrett in the face, though Shields in her correspondence said Ambers and his commanding officers could have made better decisions and “neglected to apply critical teachings” in de-escalation.
Garrett’s attorney, David Mour, who witnessed the incident, told The Courier Journal both he and Garrett were interviewed by the FBI. Mour last year filed a civil lawsuit against LMPD on his client’s behalf.
Ambers was not put on administrative leave or reassignment while his internal case was pending.
Kala Kachmar is an investigative reporter. Reach her at 502-662-2002; firstname.lastname@example.org or @NewsQuip on Twitter. Support strong local journalism by subscribing today: www.courier-journal.com/subscribe.