LOUISVILLE (AP) — Two Kentucky police officers who fatally shot a man wielding a saw were justified in using deadly force, a prosecutor said Wednesday.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Thomas Wine recently completed a review of the evidence in the death of 57-year-old Darnell Wicker. Wicker was shot multiple times by officers at a Louisville apartment complex on Aug. 8.
During a news conference Wednesday, Wine, the city’s top prosecutor, said the evidence shows that Wicker had kicked down the door of his girlfriend’s apartment and was carrying a 20-inch (51-centimeter) hand saw before police arrived. Wine says police gave repeated commands for Wicker to drop the saw before the shooting. Wicker also had been using cocaine that day some time before the 1:50 a.m. shooting, according to a toxicology report.
Police fired 13 rounds at Wicker, and body camera footage shows the officers fired almost immediately after telling Wicker to drop the saw.
“I don’t like that somebody got shot that many times but I don’t like the fact that those officers were placed in danger and this person was moving toward them,” Wine said during the 90-minute conference with reporters, during which he showed the evidence collected by investigators. Among the items were a long hand saw and a 13-inch (33-centimeter) kitchen knife.
An attorney for Wicker’s relatives said he was disappointed in Wine’s decision.
“The analysis rendered by the Commonwealth’s Attorney is in direct contradiction to the objective evidence,” attorney Sam Aguiar said in an email message. Wicker “made no aggressive moves toward officers.”
Aguiar has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Louisville police and the three officers who responded to the scene. Wicker was African-American. The two officers who fired at Wicker, Taylor Banks and Beau Gadegaard, are white.
The lawsuit alleges the officers used excessive force by firing too hastily, then handcuffing Wicker and letting him bleed to death on the ground.
Wine said Wicker’s girlfriend, Anita Jones, and her daughter Denita Jones told Wicker that police were coming and that he should leave the apartment. He had kicked the door in to get inside and was carrying weapons, making it a volatile domestic violence situation, Wine said.
On one of the officer’s body camera recordings, Denita Jones is heard saying Wicker was swinging the saw after officers told him to drop it. Gadegaard said in his interview with the department’s Public Integrity Unit that Wicker refused to drop the saw and instead got into an aggressive stance.