City leaders will investigate response to waterfront attack

Published: Mar. 24, 2014 at 9:06 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 14, 2014 at 8:05 PM EDT
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The teens proceeded to different locations downtown and assaulted two innocent victims,...
The teens proceeded to different locations downtown and assaulted two innocent victims, according to police.

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - The Louisville Metro Police Chief and Mayor are calling a nearly three hour stretch of mob violence on downtown an isolated incident, but this is not the first report of gang violence on Louisville's Waterfront Park. Now, there are questions about whether police could have done more to keep the situation from spiraling out of control.

The sun hadn't even gone down on the Big Four Bridge when Jean Henry watched in horror as a group of teenagers beat and kicked her husband. The unprovoked attack happened in front of the couple's 4-year-old and 7-year-old granddaughters.

[PREVIOUS STORY: Police search for roving teens responsible for downtown assaults]

"They saw everything," Henry said. "I had the 4-year-old, I had her hand in mine. I was just running toward him."

She said later the gang returned to taunt the family.

"Mocking sounds like crying like boo hoo, boo-hoo," Henry said. "I asked people to please help us, to please call 911."

A single Louisville Metro police officer arrived. Henry said he told them there was little that could be done.

"The police that we talked to said that this had gone on before down there," Henry recalled. "He said if you can't really identify anybody, is it a good idea to take a report."

The Henry's decided not to file a report until the next morning, when they found out their attack touched off almost three hours of mob violence downtown. The rampage stretched from the Louisville Waterfront Park, where an estimated 200 teens had gathered, to the Bader's gas station, located on the intersection of 1st and Jefferson Streets, where security camera video recorded the mob looting the store and beating another woman who stumbled inside badly bloodied.

Louisville Metro Police Department Chief Steve Conrad said the officer's response to the initial attack will be a part of the overall investigation into what went wrong. He also said he didn't even hear about the attack on Henry's husband until he saw the story on the news.

He still doesn't know the name of the officer in question or whether that officer should have done more to call in backup, which might have prevented a second attack that happened on the same bridge, 45 minutes later.

A string of assaults, robberies and vandalism followed on nearby city streets.

Monday, Mayor Greg Fischer stood side by side, and behind, the LMPD Chief.

"When police learned about it they immediately dispatched folks to it," Mayor Fischer said. "We're taking a look at what all the facts are right now. It's difficult when you have 200 kids together. Police show up and then they disperse and start moving throughout the community."

"This was an extraordinarily unusual incident," he added. "Nothing like this has happened in decades."

Even Chief Conrad said his knowledge of past problems at Waterfront Park is "not much."

But there is a history. Conrad had just taken over as police chief in June 2012 when a 15-year-old suffered a concussion after a large group of boys jumped him at Waterfront Park. A year earlier, a 56-year-old man's skull was fractured when a group of teens attacked him outside a Louisville Bats game.

Police said those teenagers were part of a group of 200 teens they chased off from Waterfront Park earlier that evening - about the same number of teenagers estimated to have gathered on the Waterfront, setting off the mayhem Saturday night.

For Henry, its reason to stay away from what the city hoped to be, one of its crown jewels.

"Here is something beautiful that the city of Louisville is trying to give the citizens and I don't feel comfortable being there," Henry said.

The city said they will increase the police presence on the Waterfront, especially as the weather warms up. That could include foot patrols, bike patrols. No special details or task forces are planned.

Things were so chaotic Saturday night police are still working to put together their own time line about when the violence started and ended. They are asking any other victims or witnesses they don't know about, to come forward by calling the anonymous police tip line at (502) 574-LMPD.

Editor's Note: It is the policy of WAVE 3 News not to include physical descriptions of the subjects of stories unless that information is complete enough for viewers to identify an individual with some degree of certainty. Race, age and gender alone do not meet that standard. However, if the description also includes specific distinguishing characteristics such as clothing, a distinctive tattoo, a specific vehicle, etc., we may include it in our reporting.

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