Chief clears LMPD officer accused of excessive force against protester
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - 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, 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.
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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.
People involved in Louisville protests reject the LMPD conclusion.
“He was on the corner of Sixth and Jefferson, and they came up and arrested him and assaulted him,” Lillie Mour, a witness to Garrett’s arrest said.
Mour is the daughter of Garrett’s attorney and recorded the incident on her phone.
“You can see everything that I saw in the video,” Mour said, “And I was there, but I mean, it’s crazy. He wasn’t doing anything.”
Garrett’s arrest was originally criticized by the Kentucky Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression.
The group’s opinion did not change with the LMPD decision.
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“It’s a farce,” Alliance co-chair Tyra Thomas-Walker said. “It is totally disheartening to see how our, LMPD and our police are treating our community.”
Former protest leader and current Louisville mayoral candidate Timothy Findley Jr. agreed.
“If we can’t come to an agreement over what we’re seeing,” Findley said, “it shows once again that LMPD has not made the kinds of changes, reforms or reflects the desire of the community.”
WAVE News Troubleshooters obtained a copy of Aaron Amber’s personnel file following Garrett’s arrest. WAVE News also obtained information about Garrett, including the arrest citation for the incident leading up to the video’s capture.
According to court records, Garrett was a convicted child sex offender whose victim was younger than 12 years old. Garrett was last seen in public on the grounds of Central High School during a student protest involving sexual assault allegations.
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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. Shields said that by the time Garrett was apprehended, body camera footage showed that he was already on the sidewalk and not in the street, and that 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.
Garrett could be heard saying things like “I like that s***” and “I’ve been waiting for this s***” as he was led away, leading Shields to believe he was preparing to be arrested that day.
David Mour, Garrett’s lawyer entered a not guilty plea. David Mour told WAVE in April 2021 that he didn’t trust anything would happen.
“It’s horrible to see a police officer kneeling on a police officer like George Floyd and killing him, or kneeling on a guy like Dee Garrett and beating the crap out of him,” Mour said.
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 and is a registered sex offender.”
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