LMPD officer exonerated for repeatedly punching protester during Jefferson Square Park arrest | In depth


LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – A Louisville Metro Police officer who was captured on video punching a man multiple times in the face while protesting in Jefferson Square Park last April has been cleared of charges. wrongdoing during an internal departmental investigation.

Officer Aaron Ambers was investigated for possible violations of department policies involving de-escalation and the use of physical force during the arrest of Denorver Garrett on April 18, 2021.

In a memo sent to Ambers on March 28, Chief Erika Shields told the officer he had been exonerated and would not face disciplinary action for punching Garrett four times in the head and in the face.

However, Shields also wrote that while the officers involved in the arrest did not violate policy, their actions “did not reflect the extensive de-escalation training the department received” and they “could have taken better decisions”.

“They did nothing but play into the hands of an attention-seeking individual who has a documented history of violence and who is a registered sex offender,” Shields wrote in a March 18 memo. published Thursday in the media.

She noted that current police policy does not distinguish between open-handed and closed-handed strikes, allowing investigators to be “more subjective” in deciding whether force was used. Shields ordered that current de-escalation and use-of-force policies be reviewed.

Three sergeants involved in the arrest will receive formal counseling on the importance of de-escalation and “the full impact of their decision-making,” Shields wrote.

sergeant. Lisa Nagle was exonerated for a possible violation of the department’s agent response policy.

The video of officers arresting Garrett was captured by Jaime Hendricks and shared on social media by Riotheart, a member of independent media collective 502LiveStreamers.

At the start of Hendricks’ 85-second clip, an officer can be heard saying to Garrett, “You’re under arrest.”

A bystander can be heard asking the police: ‘What did he do?’

Garrett was charged with second-degree disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. Garrett’s arrest report stated “he was inconveniencing the public and posing a safety concern to motorists.”

Denorver “Dee” Garrett displays an injury after being hit by a police officer near Jefferson Square Park in Louisville, Ky. Sunday, April 18, 2021. In a viral video on Facebook, Louisville subway police officers were seen arrest Garrett, 29. near the park. In the video, an officer attempting to handcuff Garrett tells him to stop moving several times, before forcing him to the ground and punching him repeatedly. (Jaime Hendricks via AP)

Shields wrote that Garrett “repeatedly stood in the roadway and yelled at motorists” and that officers had “prior knowledge” of Garrett and “understood that arresting him had the potential to be unstable.”

She noted that the “main goal” was to get Garrett off the streets.

Body camera video shows Garrett was non-compliant and went from passive to active resistance, leading officers to take him to the ground, Sheilds wrote.

Ambers “landed several blows to the head” in order for Garrett to free one of his hands to be cuffed, she said. The chief said Ambers told investigators he was concerned Garrett was holding a gun.

In an interview with investigators, Ambers said, “My thought process is he’s either going to get up to fight or he’s going to get up to run.

“…I was trying to limit his movements as much as possible because I didn’t know his intentions and I was afraid they wouldn’t be good against us.”

LMPD defensive tactics trainer Allen Mangenello told investigators that Ambers hadn’t had much training since graduating from the police academy.

“So people will naturally resort to what’s naturally instinctive, which is throwing punches in order to get the person to comply or try to listen to their commands,” he said. .

In his letter, Shields wrote that LMPD Academy staff should immediately develop a mandatory ongoing Jiu-Jitsu program for all sworn individuals serving on patrol or assigned to any tactical team formation.

“As law enforcement agencies, we expect employees to use ‘appropriate force’ in high-charge incidents, but give them a few hours of training once a year (if that’s is the case),” she wrote. “It is unrealistic to think they will succeed; better training, whatever the cost, must be a priority.”

Garrett, according to Shields, had for months “positioned himself to get arrested” and the officers played into his hands.

“…putting blame solely on the shoulders of Officer Ambers misses the mark,” she wrote. “As a department, we are striving to do better and recognize that there are several factors that contributed to this incident that need to be addressed.”

Video of Hendricks’ arrest shows an officer standing behind Garrett and holding his hands together as two other officers watch within reach. Someone can be heard in the video saying, “Don’t flex on me, man. Don’t flex on me,” and the officer behind Garrett then grabs a pair of handcuffs from his belt.

As the officer struggles to put a handcuff around one of Garrett’s hands, someone can be heard in the video saying, “Stop flexing me.”

Someone responds, “I’m not flexing. I’m not doing anything.” Garrett’s face is turned away from the camera and obscured by a pole during this part of the video.

In Garrett’s arrest report, police said he “resisted officers’ movements to bring his hands close enough to put on handcuffs. He was given strong verbal orders to stop resisting and place his hands behind his back, which he didn’t follow.”

In the video of Hendricks’ arrest, the officer appears to secure a cuff around one of Garrett’s hands, and Garrett moves slightly. Someone then yells “Stop”, to which Garrett can be heard and seen responding, “I’m not doing anything.”

A second officer then appears to put his hands on Garrett as the officer who was first behind him puts an arm across his chest. Someone can be heard saying, “Join your hands – now.”

The video then shows an officer putting a leg between Garrett’s legs. Garrett takes a step back and the officers start trying to force him to bed. An officer who was watching and standing in front of Garret and blocking the camera’s view of the interaction steps forward and joins the other two officers in an attempt to restrain Garrett.

As Garrett is forced to the ground, the video shows the officer originally attempting to handcuff him by throwing his first punch in Garrett’s face. Video shows the officer throwing at least three more punches to Garrett’s face as he and other officers force him to the ground.

An officer can be heard in the video shouting: “Put your hands behind your back and stop resisting – now.”

As the internal investigation summarizes, Garrett’s head shots “succeeded in achieving compliance.”

The video shows Garrett stopping moving and the officers handcuffing him. As officers lift Garrett off the ground and lead him away from Jefferson Square Park, someone can be heard on video telling the officers they “broke his glasses”.

“He was standing on the sidewalk,” someone can be heard yelling at the officers pulling Garrett away. “Why did you have to stop and do that? »

This story will be updated.

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