Probation for accused construction worker’s killer was never revoked despite new felony conviction
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - The man suspected of killing a highway maintenance worker and shooting an Louisville Metro Police officer in the face slipped through the cracks of the judicial system.
Despite being convicted of a new felony in another state, WAVE News Troubleshooters uncovered the suspect’s probation in Louisville was never revoked. In fact, the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office didn’t even know of Keyshaun Stewart’s new arrest from Kentucky’s Division of Probation and Parole.
The probation officer, Chris Mull, has now been placed on administrative leave while the Department of Corrections conducts an internal investigation into why the Tennessee arrest and conviction was not reported to prosecutors.
Stewart is held on a $1 million bond for the shooting near the Dixie Highway overpass on November 19 just before 3 a.m.
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According to reports, Stewart fatally shot Fred O’Bannon who was working and sitting in his car. Then police say, Stewart walked towards Sgt. Chris Lane and shot him in the face. Lane returned fire, striking Stewart several times. Both Lane and Stewart survived.
“The system has failed,” O’Bannon’s mother, Anita O’Bannon said. “It has failed us, it has failed me, it has failed his kids, it has failed so many people, and it’s not fair.”
In an exclusive investigation, Troubleshooters found Stewart had been convicted of burglary in 2019 and was sentenced to five years of probation. Stewart and a friend broke into a home, tore up the inside and stole a gun case with 12 weapons inside.
“I don’t blame him at all because he’s gotten away with everything else,” Anita said.
Judge Olu Stevens didn’t think jail would rehabilitate him, according to court documents, and gave him five years of probation instead.
While studying the court files, one word jumped out: Tennessee. A search through Tennessee’s Department of Corrections website produced Stewart’s mugshot.
Stewart had been arrested nine months after being sentenced to probation in in Louisville.
Back in March, just after midnight, Stewart rammed his car through the glass doors of a car dealership and lit one of the offices on fire, according to Nashville Police. He charged and slammed the responding officer on a wall and onto the pile of glass, slashing the officer’s arm, the report states.
In June 2021, Stewart was found guilty of felony arson and assaulting an officer. He was sentenced to four years of probation for those charges. According to Davidson County court documents, Stewart was supposed to be transferred back to Kentucky to serve his term and receive mental health treatment through Seven Counties.
But, despite the new felony conviction, Stewart’s probation here never got revoked.
“If you would have locked him up, something would have rehabilitated him and my son would still be alive,” Anita said.
“After a thorough review, it is clear that neither the prosecutor assigned to Keyshaun Stewart’s probated Jefferson County case nor anyone in my office was informed that he was arrested and convicted of a felony charge in Tennessee while on probation,” Commonwealth Attorney Tom Wine told WAVE News. “I have no doubt that had my office been informed of the Tennessee arrest and conviction, we would have sought revocation of Stewart’s probated sentence.”
Wine added that his office notified Probation and Parole and they have provided them information. Wine declined to comment further because of Stewart’s pending charges related to the shooting.
“Frustrated is probably way too kind a word,” former Assistant Commonwealth Attorney Brian Butler said. “I’ve never seen this Commonwealth Attorney’s Office not bring someone back to court with a new felony conviction.”
He described the state’s Probation and Parole officers as the eyes and ears for prosecutors. Butler explained the probation officer should have made a supervision report which alerts prosecutor an offender has been arrested again.
Troubleshooters have not located a copy of that report.
During a hearing in September 2020, six months after the arrest in Tennessee, Stewart’s attorney told the judge he’d been in mental health treatment there.
“He gets treatment there but lives with his mother in Louisville,” Attorney Chris Meinhart told Judge Olu Stevens.
“You said Mr. Meinhart that you had tried to call Officer Mull,” Stevens asked. “So, Officer Mull, is he in the loop here with what’s going on with Mr. Stewart right now or no?”
“He’s not, I just got all this info in the last couple of days but I will call him,” Stewart’s attorney says.
It’s unclear if he knew of Stewart’s new arrest. Meinhart did respond to a voicemail asking if he did or if Mull had alerted him to the new charge.
In a supervision report created by Mull on November 29, days after the fatal shooting, Mull states the new charges were discussed during a hearing on November 5.
According to court records, the hearing was actually held on November 4. While Stewart’s treatment was discussed again during the hearing, his new arrest was not mentioned as Mull described.
“You get in trouble in Tennessee, you come back to Louisville and you’re still not in trouble? How?” Anita O’Bannon asked.
There are still questions about Mull and what he did know about the charges in Tennessee, who did he tell and when did he find out.
Numerous calls to Mull went unanswered.
The Kentucky Department of Corrections, who runs the state’s Division of Probation and Parole, told WAVE News Troubleshooters they have now launched their own internal investigation into the allegations that Mull did not report the Tennessee arrest to the Commonwealth. They added Mull is currently on administrative leave and that they will take actions if the allegations are substantiated.
But to Stewart’s two victims and their families, that action needed to happen before Stewart would be arrested and charged with taking aim at them.
“My son had to pay the ultimate price of the system dropping the ball,” Anita said. “I need some answers not just for me, but for his kids.”
Two months before O’Bannon was killed and Lane shot, Stewart had been stopped by an LMPD officer for speeding. No documents related to Stewart’s arrests had been filed. The officer wrote Stewart a ticket and sent him on his way.
Judge Stevens did not respond to emails asking if he was ever made aware of the charges in Tennessee.
The prosecutor, Jessica Kingsley, left the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office in December 2020.
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