Another Violence Interrupter has been indicted

Another one of Louisville's Violence Interrupters faces criminal charges

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - As another of Louisville's Violence Interrupters faces criminal charges, WAVE 3 News has obtained new information showing problems with background checks, drug testing and more.

DeShondre Watters began working as one of Louisville’s Violence Interrupters in September 2018.

Interrupters are people with criminal backgrounds who try to prevent others from committing violence.

According to the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office, Watters was indicted on March 27, almost a year after the incident. He is charged with trafficking in meth, illegal possession of hydrocodone, tampering with evidence and fleeing and evading police.

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The Office for Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods said it didn’t learn of the indictment until last week, at which point it suspended Watters.

“If you’ve got an individual who is moving in those circles and involved in the drug culture, I think it makes it very difficult to make the argument that they would be very successful at reducing violence,” Councilman Kevin Kramer told WAVE 3 News.

In March, WAVE 3 News broke the story when another Violence Interrupter, Dwight Taylor, was arrested for allegedly strangling and raping a woman. OSHN fired him immediately.

The news of Watters’ arrest came at the same time WAVE 3 News obtained documents through open records laws, and not long after WAVE 3 News reported the city had suspended payments to one of the groups managing the interrupters due to a lack of financial documentation.

In one email, the list of issues seemed to broaden.

“I think it fills in more of the blanks,” Kramer said.

The email is dated April 30, 2019. In it, the OSHN director stated the non-profit which manages most of the city’s interrupters, No More Red Dots did not have structured payroll or a timekeeping process, a procedure for drug testing or background checks.

“I wish I could tell you that this is a huge shock, but I think it verifies what we heard at the public hearing,” Kramer said.

The founder of No More Red Dots, Dr. Eddie Woods, told WAVE 3 News the allegations are not true and that in fact they run the background checks and drug tests through OSHN itself.

The same email also lists solutions to get No More Red Dots into compliance by securing services to manage the finances and timekeeping, and resources to make sure drug tests and background checks are completed.

As of this writing, however, payments to NMRD were still in suspension.

“We understand that nothing is perfect and have committed countless hours to support for NMRD,” OSHN Director Rashaad Abdur-Rahman wrote in the email. “There is not another vendor that receives this depth and breadth of operational support from our office. As you can see there is a lot of infrastructure needed here and the concerns have remained pretty consistent.”

Councilman Bill Hollander recently told WAVE 3 News it is a different but necessary, and successful, tool to reach those at risk.

Some cities like Brooklyn use the organization Cure Violence to implement and run its interrupters program. WAVE 3 News recently traveled there and reported on that program’s success and a reduction in violence.

Jessie Halladay, a spokesperson for LMPD Chief Steve Conrad, said he defends the concept of the program while acknowledging there are issues that need to be resolved.

Louisville has recently hired Cure Violence to train the interrupters under a $100,000 contract. For a period of at least a year, the City of Louisville did not have a contract with Cure Violence, though it was operating the program in its model.

Metro Councilman Kevin Kramer said the new contract may be too late.

"The question really isn't about Cure Violence," he said. "It's more that I don't have the confidence in the people in Louisville who would be responsible for that program."

Watters, meanwhile, is scheduled to be in court to face the charges in July.

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