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No charges for LMPD officers involved in Kroger shooting death of Shelby Gazaway

Updated: Aug. 27, 2020 at 7:54 AM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Jefferson County Commonwealth’s Attorney Tom Wine announced Wednesday that the LMPD officers involved in the shooting death of Shelby Gazaway will not face charges.

Gazaway was involved in an altercation with another person inside a Kroger store in the Portland neighborhood on Nov. 7, 2019. He then allegedly fired several shots inside of the store before firing at officers upon leaving the store, prompting them to shoot back and kill him.

“The officers acted both within the dictates of (state law) as well as the LMPD’s Standard Operating Procedures,” Wine wrote in his ruling. “Therefore, based on the applicable statute and policies of LMPD, it is my belief that the officers were justified in using deadly physical force against Mr. Gazaway and no charge, either felony or misdemeanor, will be sought, nor will this matter be presented to the Jefferson County Grand Jury.”

In a nine-page report released by the Commonwealth’s Attorney office, Wine states two different pole cameras in the parking lot captured some of Gazaway’s actions, including Gazaway raising his right arm and pointing toward officers involved, identified as Patrick Norton and Alexander Dugan.

In the document, a TARC driver, who was shopping at the time, said he saw Gazaway fire a shot inside of the store. Once outside, he heard officers’ commands to drop a gun and said he saw muzzle flashes from the direction opposite of the officers. Another witness in the parking lot stated Gazaway shot three or four times toward where officers were positioned.

Norton’s body camera showed Gazaway raise his right arm and point toward Norton, according to the report. On audio captured by the body camera, both officers can be heard asking Gazaway to “drop the gun” and an exchange of gunfire.

Additional officers arrived at the scene and went to render aid to Gazaway. When they rolled him over a Glock semi-automatic was found under his body, according to the report.

During the investigation, two gouge marks caused by projectiles were found on a brick pillar where one of the officers was positioned.

The report states from the time of the elapsed from the altercation in the store to the time Gazaway was shot and killed was four-and-a-half-minutes.

The report also brings up text messages between Gazaway and his mother sent before his death. In the messages, Wine said Gazaway appeared to be troubled and his mother, Semone Carter, asks if he is suicidal.

Carter denied to WAVE 3 News that her son was ever suicidal and does not remember ever having that particular conversation. His sister, Sterling Gazaway, said in a news conference Wednesday that if investigators had her brother’s phone since November, they should have brought the texts between her brother and mother up in the beginning.

In June, the family filed a lawsuit against LMPD, demanding the department to release the public records in the case. Wednesday, they said they had no idea the decision not to charge the officers was ever made on July 8 and they still have a lot of questions. They also referred to Wine’s 9-page summary of findings “straightforward but tragic.”

”We still feel like Shelby was ambushed,” Sterling Gazaway said.

The family said they want to see more footage of what happened outside of the Kroger, not just on one police officer’s body camera.

“From the moment they left their squad car to the time that it was done... it was 93 seconds,” Sterling Gazaway said.

Gazaway’s family has relived that minute and a half over and over because they believe there’s more to the story.

”They did not show us where they gave Shelby the opportunity [to surrender],” his mother said. “You saw how the police officers was standing behind the pillar... You can hear one of the police officers, Norton, asks someone on the side of him, ‘Is that the shooter?’ If Shelby actually came out shooting, according to their statement, they would not need a witness to ask that question.”

Shelby Gazaway’s aunt said the situation has really opened her eyes to the truth about race and policing.

“Why is it when they come for us [people of color] the force is lethal? You get 16 bullets, why? I would love to visit him in jail right now. ‘Dude, what was wrong? What was going on? Let me get you some help,’ but they don’t give us that opportunity. They made a mistake because this family, right here, because we’re not stopping.”

The family has an attorney requesting more information as well as an expert trying to clarify another possible video of the incident.

“We’re not letting up, you got to pull down videos, pull down whatever you can and you got to make the story to me, the story you wrote in that paper, you show me because there is video everywhere,” Sharon Gazaway said. “What I would say to Tom Wine? ‘Prove it. Prove it to me.‘”

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