Troubleshooters: Sign of change observed in drug house investigation

WAVE Troubleshooters went undercover to see if a change in leadership at LMPD has meant a change in enforcement.
Published: Aug. 17, 2023 at 4:26 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 17, 2023 at 4:41 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - We recorded it at 26th and Madison, 27th and Slevin, 25th and Slevin, and 4th and Oak. Neighbors taking photos, while I recorded video of heroin and crack rocks being bagged up and distributed to long lines of paying customers just like all the other places. And the same frustration from neighbors who called police before me.

“The police are not doing anything,” a neighbor told me. “They say it’s not a priority in the current administration.”

When we asked outgoing Louisville Metro police chief Erika Shields why people complaining of drug dealing houses terrorizing their neighborhoods were told to stop calling, this is what she said:

“If you are going after drugs, you may get Breonna Taylor,” Shields said. “Breonna Taylor did nothing. There was nothing in her apartment that was illegal. There’s a much greater risk you’re assuming and it’s not always with the best of consequences and it’s not to say you can’t make impactful drug arrests, but you also can’t overstate the significance of what a drug arrest means.”

Since January when Shields stepped down the same complaints have not slowed down to me about drug houses and related shootings, like this one:

“4106 West Broadway”

“multiple incidents of drug activity, gang activity, and gun violence”

“on a daily basis”

“I am contacting the Governor” and “Kentucky State Police asking they intervene on an emergency basis due to the Louisville police not doing their sworn duty.”

When I started watching 4106 West Broadway I recorded a flurry of people coming and going every hour and numerous hand-to-hand exchanges. But the alleged drug activity wasn’t confined to 4106. It was everywhere around 41st and Broadway. A sea of hand to hand exchanges all hours of the day. Walk ups, drive ups, bike ups, and no hiccups until one night, one hour after I stopped recording, the bullets flew again.

“This is unbelievable,” the homeowner messaged me.

“My house was shot and occupants nearly killed”

“Bullets hit cars and houses. Several of my residents were nearly shot!”

“This is the second time bullets have hit my house! This is an outrage.”

But no one else appeared outraged in the days that followed because nothing changed. Same activity every time I watched, while children walked by, and buses unloaded kids right in the middle of it. So, I came out from undercover with a security team and approached the house.

“Hi I’m John Boel with WAVE News,” I said. “We’re following up on complaints about this house, and others, but specifically this house about it being a drug house. You live here?”

“Yes but this ain’t no drug house,” a man outside said. Portions of tied-off plastic baggie wrapping littered the ground.

“I’ve been sitting back and watching and seeing a lot of people coming and going,” I said.

“Not no drug house,” another man said. “I live here. I’ve been living here longer than he has. You go next door or somewhere else for that man.”

“I’ve noticed a lot of it in the neighborhood,” I said.

“It’s the West End!” he said.

We asked the new Louisville police chief if her administration is still refusing to deal with drug dealing houses. “We know that having a drug house in your neighborhood impacts your quality of life,” LMPD chief Jacquelyn Gwinn-Villaroel said. “We take that very seriously. But how we address that makes a difference. With that, we did launch the narcotics hotline the earlier part of this year. But also we have our impact teams within the divisions. How we go about addressing these narcotics houses makes the difference.”

Then I got a complaint that said:

“A group of guys are selling drugs every day in front of the apartments at 1026 south 4th”

“one with a pistol in his pocket with an extended clip. Kind of brazen.”

Sure enough when I started watching that spot it was exactly as described. Guys hanging out for hours, hand to hand exchanges, and one guy pretending he was firing a gun while it appeared he had a gun under his shirt protruding up from his waistband and he kept checking it. I noticed another guy carrying around a navy blue fanny pack.

Later that same evening, according to an arrest slip, police were “dispatched” to “1026 4th” on a “trouble run involving multiple African-American males armed with handguns pointing them at vehicles and bystanders.” One “still holding the handgun in the front of his waistband” who “fled on foot” and “tossed a loaded Smith & Wesson 9 mm.” Officers caught him with “navy blue fanny pack” in which “officers recovered multiple different narcotics all wrapped in small plastic bags.”

Anderyou Johnson was charged with possession of opiates, meth, fleeing police, and disorderly conduct. The officer noted “subject’s actions caused alarm and nuisance” to “multiple innocent bystanders.” That’s the same thing residents have been complaining about and the same thing the new chief vowed to tackle.

“Every child within Louisville should have a right to play in their backyard as well as their front yard without being impacted by criminal activity,” Gwinn-Villaroel said. “That’s our job, and doing it the right way, because it makes a difference.”

Another reason former chief Shields cited for not going after drug houses was what happened after they did.

“They’re going to walk right out the back door of the jail,” she said.

When we checked, Anderyou Johnson was already out of jail. As for 4106 West Broadway, I reached the owner, Keith Booker, who said the problem isn’t his house. He said it’s everywhere around it including right next door on both sides. And he pointed to a recent shooting next door.