Outreach worker claims he was detained as LMPD made homeless camp arrests

Confusion, questions surround arrests at Louisville homeless camp

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - People living in an illegal Louisville homeless camp on CSX Railroad property claim to have had a tense, confusing interaction with police Wednesday.

It comes after the city gave notice to about 30 people to clear out by the end of April.

Cell phone video shows some of the moments that led up to the four arrests and the detainment of homeless outreach worker Jeff Gill at the Baxter and Liberty camp. The video starts as an officer asks Chris Grammer, a man living at the site, to move to another part of the camp.

"Uh, no. I'm packing stuff up,” Grammer responds. “Can you tell me if I did something wrong."

Grammer said he is recording video on his phone throughout the encounter.

CSX has ordered the residents of the camp to be out by the end of April.
CSX has ordered the residents of the camp to be out by the end of April. (Source: WAVE 3 News)

"Man, are you giving me any problems right now?” the officer responds.

Grammer tells the officer he isn’t, but continues to record.

“Go ahead turn around and put your hands behind your back," the officer said.

Grammer asks what he’s being detained for.

Grammer said police pointed to trespassing and eventually explained they were investigating outstanding warrants of some in the camp.

Gill also said police initially told him they were on official duty.

“That they were there because people were trespassing,” Gill said.

Chris Grammer lives at the site and said he was confused why officers said the people were trespassing,
Chris Grammer lives at the site and said he was confused why officers said the people were trespassing, (Source: WAVE 3 News)

An LMPD spokesperson said four people with outstanding warrants were arrested. The spokesperson added that the activity had nothing to do with trespassing. No one was charged with trespassing.

Grammer said he questions why officers would mention or cite trespassing when detaining people since those at the site have been ordered to leave, but not until the end of the month.

“They’ve backed themselves into a corner by doing it because it’s officially been said that we can be here until the 29th,” Grammer said.

Gill was at the site as an outreach worker at St. John’s Center. He said he too was detained, while wearing his St. John’s name tag, but eventually let go.

"I explained to them again, I'm just an outreach worker, but they said I was interfering with their investigation," Gill said.

Jeff Gill, founder of Hip Hop Cares, was arrested while doing work for St. John's at the Baxter & Liberty camp.
Jeff Gill, founder of Hip Hop Cares, was arrested while doing work for St. John's at the Baxter & Liberty camp. (Source: WAVE 3 News)

Gill said homelessness will not get better in Louisville if people continue to get similar treatment.

“If I wasn’t there to be able to reason with them, we would have had people who didn’t have warrants go to jail,” Gill said. “They showed up with intent on locking people up. In the fragile situation that we have right now, they’re already under an immense amount of pressure."

Gill is also the founder of Hip Hop Cares, another outreach group in the city.

Gill said officers asked those at the camp to provide their social security numbers out loud in front of the group, which some protested. Gill said he was able to leave the group setting to give his information to police, but others were not.

Thursday, new details emerged on the four arrests. Reports show that Karen Colmore (aka Karen McMahan) and Brian Gilbert were both arrested on outstanding warrants originating in Clark County. Details of the charges have not been released.

Karen Colmore (Karen McMahan), left, and Brian Gilbert, right, were arrested at the camp Wednesday. Their charges have not been released.
Karen Colmore (Karen McMahan), left, and Brian Gilbert, right, were arrested at the camp Wednesday. Their charges have not been released.

The names and charges of the two other people arrested Wednesday were not available as of Thursday night.

Copyright 2019 WAVE 3 News. All rights reserved.