The voices of May 17, pt 1

The voices of May 17, part 1
The scene of the violence in Louisville's Parkland neighborhood on May 17, 2012.
The scene of the violence in Louisville's Parkland neighborhood on May 17, 2012.
Ofc. Josh McKinley
Ofc. Josh McKinley
Det. Lisa Doyle
Det. Lisa Doyle
Col. Yvette Gentry
Col. Yvette Gentry

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) – The scene that unfolded about 1 p.m. in Louisville's Parkland neighborhood on May 17, 2012 will be etched in the annals of history forever.

The words of Det. Jon Lesher seem to say it all: "Never have I ever been part of, in my 11, almost 12 years on the police department, where there was a murder at a murder scene."

The violent acts and the loss of life left a heavy impression on everyone who heard the news. It seemed to literally leave an imprint.

Col. Yvette Gentry, one of the first responders that day, remembers saying then what she says now: "What just happened here? We had never seen anything like it."

The savage acts left two men dead and two men wounded. In the midst of all the chaos and dozens of onlookers, shots rang out four houses down from the bodies that were already lifeless on the ground.  One more person was murdered, and another person was wounded by police on the scene investigating the original homicides.

"I'm like, 'This is the craziest thing that is probably... the craziest thing that has happened in my life," explained Lesher, wringing his hands and looking down at the floor as if he were living it all over again.

The violence had reached a point that neither Kentuckiana nor Louisville's most veteran officers had ever seen.

The shootings made May 17, 2012 the bloodiest day in Louisville since July 2011 when four people were killed, but not in the same place.

The year 2008 proved to be another year with another very deadly day. On October 6, 2008, a mother took the life of her two children. She then took her own life.  Later that same day there were two other homicides in the city.

Within a matter of minutes on May 17, 2012 at one location in Louisville's Parkland neighborhood, so many people lost so much. Lives were lost. Dreams were lost. Families were lost. To a lot of people in Kentuckiana, it felt like humanity itself had been lost.

Officer Josh McKinley tried to put in words a situation that even after four months still seems surreal. "We were the first car on the scene for the original homicide," McKinley said. I did CPR on another human being 15 minutes before I was doing CPR on someone else."

No number of years on the force or in the field could prepare anyone for violence this senseless or this great.

McKinley explained that nothing prepared him for the feelings left behind. "Trying to express the emotion, it's really hard," he said. "It really is."

Detective Lisa Doyle simply said three words to express her feelings: "My heart hurts." Like McKinley, Doyle, too, explained that the situation is hard to take even now. "The incident at 32nd and Kentucky still sits with me," she said.

What also sticks with the officers is what appears to be the new social norm where ever there is yellow tape and flashing lights. "Babies on moms' hips. babies holding moms' hands or babies just walking around," Lesher said in a low, confused voice.

"I don't know what the effect is on that young person long term," Gentry added, "but you just have to know it's not positive. You have to know it's not positive."

Doyle described another disturbing image from that tragic day. "We put screens up the day of the 32nd and Kentucky shooting," she said. "People climbed on porches to see what was going on, drop the tail gate on the truck, pop up on the hood of a car and watch."

There were bodies in the street. They were the loved ones of people in the community.  Gawkers young and old stood around the scene and watched as if it were just a late-night television show.

Detective Lesher fervently pointed out, "It's not just the west end. It's the whole community."

With his head down but hope high, Officer McKinley tearfully whispered, "I believe it can be fixed. We can turn things around."

Copyright 2012 WAVE News. All rights reserved.