Louisville activist: Police attitude is 'comply or die'

(USA Today) LOUISVILLE — Activists said Sunday that the police shooting of a black man in Old Louisville a day earlier illustrates their claim that officers too often use excessive force to subdue people of color, and they said they hope it leads to police measures to increase transparency.

"Either you comply or you die," said Tara Pruitt, a member of the Stand Up Sundays activists' group, which criticized the fatal shooting at its weekly meeting. "De-escalation tactics are not used when it comes to people of color."

The group pointed out that Louisville Metro Police officer Nathan Blanford was not shown using a Taser, mace or police baton in the store surveillance video that police released Sunday of the incident in which Deng Manyoun was fatally shot.

Rather, Blanford pulled out his gun as Manyoun charged him with a metal flagpole he grabbed from the facade of the Smoker's Smoke Shop. In the store's video, Manyoun can be seen swinging down with the pole, striking Blanford's squad car as the officer moved to get out of the way. Blanford then fired his weapon, the video shows.

Manyoun was African and did not speak or understand English, Police Chief Steve Conrad said.

Conrad said Sunday that Blanford acted in self-defense when he shot Manyoun, whom the chief said had a "dangerous instrument."

"I believe looking at the video, he (Blanford) did not have the opportunity to transition to another option," Conrad said. "It would appear to me based on my viewing of the video that he felt threatened, that his life was in danger; there's a man swinging an 8-foot metal pole at him. You see in the video he's coming down in what I would describe as a sledgehammer-like motion towards the officer."

Blanford was responding to reports of a woman being assaulted in the area when the confrontation took place.

Jaison Gardner, a board member of the non-profit Fairness Campaign and a regular attendee at the Stand Up Sundays meetings, said he hoped the shooting would "be a catalyst" for police to enact measures to increase transparency — including use of body cameras, the establishment of a civilian review commission, and drug and alcohol testing of officers involved in such incidents.

Louisville Metro Police have begun using body cameras in the 5th Division, but Saturday's shooting occurred in the 4th Division.

Chanelle Helm, one of the organizers of the Stand Up Sundays meetings — which have been held since August in response to the controversial police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. — said people concerned about the shooting of Manyoun should "flood police headquarters with their questions."

Carla Wallace, a co-facilitator of the Louisville chapter of the non-profit Showing Up For Racial Justice, said at Sunday's meeting that police too often act with impunity to intimidate residents in poorer neighborhoods.

Police "are not busting down doors in Indian Hills or Prospect," Wallace said at Sunday's meeting. "There needs to be white people saying black lives matter."

Manyoun, 35, is shown in the video stumbling on the sidewalk. It is unknown whether Manyoun was intoxicated in Saturday's incident, deputy coroner Robert Jones said Sunday. An official toxicology report will not be released "for about six weeks," he said.

Blanford, 40, remains on administrative leave pending an investigation of the shooting


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