Retired officer: 'I'd rather be tried by 12 than be carried out by six'

Retired officer: 'I'd rather be tried by 12 than be carried out by six'
Dr. Steven Kelsey (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Wednesday's deadly police shooting in a home on 42nd street is the fifth officer-involved shooting in Jefferson County in 30 days. (Source: LMPD)
Wednesday's deadly police shooting in a home on 42nd street is the fifth officer-involved shooting in Jefferson County in 30 days. (Source: LMPD)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - There have been five police shootings in Jefferson County in 30 days. Only one of them was not fatal.

Meanwhile, nationally this year, on average one officer has been killed a week.

"We see there's a problem, but we have to have some solutions," Dr. Steven Kelsey told WAVE 3 News. He is retired from the Louisville Metro Police Department, and sits on a citizens advisory board.

He said before emotions flare, both citizens and officers need to think about what they would do if approached by an armed person.

Thursday afternoon, LMPD released body cam video from two officers who were responding to a call for service. When they arrived to the home in the 400 block of 42nd Street, they were told a man was inside trying to set it on fire.

When officers walked up to the door, the video shows the suspect, 42-year-old Isaac Jackson, strike an officer in the leg with a knife. The body camera video also shows the other officer appear to dodge his head before shooting his weapon. The suspect died at the hospital.

This incident came just two days after the previous officer-involved shooting, during which the suspect shot at police. Officers fired back, killing the suspect.

"If someone would have shot at me first, then I would have been on the news, people would have been protesting against me," Kelsey said. "Because my saying is, 'I'd rather be tried by 12 then be carried out by six.'"

In all five of the shootings, the suspect had a weapon.

LMPD Chief Steve Conrad said he knows there's been a loss in police legitimacy, or the public's willingness to obey. He also spoke of the issue of trust.

"I absolutely agree that it is a challenge for us that we have been dealing with us for the last couple of years," Conrad said.

Kelsey is also a licensed behavior health therapist and a pastor of Spirit Filled New Life Church. He said sentiments over race play a big role.

"I'm afraid for anybody's son of African American descent because it seems like we are always nationally the target," he said.

He hopes some honest conversation brings some change.

"It's easy to be on the outside and say what you would do if you've never looked down the barrel of a gun or a muzzle and fight somebody," Kelsey added.

He said if policies and procedures were violated, then the officers should get in trouble. But, if a suspect shoots first, the officer has the duty to protect not only their own life, but the innocent lives around him.

Chief Conrad also confirmed threats had been made to LMPD via social media. Two patrol cars will now respond to every call for service, he said.

Conrad acknowledged how difficult the past few weeks have been for the officers and the community after back-to-back officer-involved shootings.

On March 31, LMPD officers were investigating a suspicious vehicle at the Breckinridge Square Apartments in Meadowview Estates. The officers asked the driver to get out of the car and the driver complied. Conrad explained that Elijah Eubanks, a passenger in the car, did not comply when asked to exit the vehicle. According to body camera footage, Eubanks pulled a revolver on the officer, firing first. The officers returned fire, hitting Eubanks. The officers called for help and gave first aid till EMS arrived.  Eubanks survived.

On April 8, officers encountered Russell Bowman, who was armed with a screwdriver. LMPD officers could be heard through their body cameras asking Bowman to put the screwdriver down. Bowman lunged with the screwdriver at one of the officers. That's when officers opened fire, fatally striking Bowman. WAVE 3 News then exclusively reported one of the officers who fired shots had saved Bowman's life a year and half before. In the life-saving incident, Officer Devin Dawes put pressure on a stab wound Bowman inflicted upon himself, helping to control the bleeding until EMS arrived.

On April 22, two men were involved in an altercation at Bardstown Road and Bashford Manor Lane. Miguel Escalona Vivas, 37 was seen by witnesses chasing another man with a gun. That man had been shot. Two officers from West Buechel Police and Hurstbourne Acres Police became involved after a witness flagged one of them down. Police said both officers Walz and Phelps told Vivas to drop his gun, but he refused and pointed it at the officers. That is when the officers fired at Vivas. He died. The man who Vivas shot later died.

On April 24, LMPD officers responded to a call about a robbery at a Metro PCS store on 2600 W. Market St. According to Conrad, 1st Division officers spotted a man matching the description of the suspect walking in the 500 block of N. 29th Street, approximately one block from their station. The body camera video showed the suspect, Demonjhea Jordan, firing at officers. Officers fired back, fatally striking Jordan.

Conrad addressed the troubling pattern of recent instances where officers end up shoot at suspects.

"It's concerning," he said. "It creates anxiety. It creates stress for our community and for our officers ... Policing is dangerous."

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