Body Cam Footage: Louisville Police Officer Did Not Request Teens Surrender Before Shooting Department Called “Accidental”

Mar 3, 2023 at 6:02 pm
Screenshot of body cam footage released Friday, March 3 of the Feb. 20 shooting of two teens that LMPD called "accidental."
Screenshot of body cam footage released Friday, March 3 of the Feb. 20 shooting of two teens that LMPD called "accidental."

Editor's note: this story has been updated.

A Louisville police officer tried to keep four juveniles trapped in a garage and did not identify himself as law enforcement or try to get them to surrender in the moments leading up to a Feb. 20 shooting of two teens that the department has called “accidental,” body camera footage released by the Louisville Metro Police Department on Friday afternoon showed. 

Officer Brendan Kaiser arrived at S. 38th Street in Louisville’s West End with one other officer at around 6 p.m. on Feb. 20, while responding to what LMPD has described as a report from a community member of “multiple juveniles” entering a detached garage on a “vacant property with what was reported as a suspected stolen vehicle.”

Arriving at the garage, which had its door closed and windows boarded up, Kaiser whispered “there’s someone in there” to the other officer, who was not identified. Within a minute of arriving, Kaiser can be seen in the video with his pistol drawn from its holster. In text placed within the video, released on Friday, LMPD said the officers drew their weapons “because they did not know who was inside, how many people were inside, and whether the individuals were armed.”

For several minutes, Kaiser stayed at the garage door while the other officer watched the rear of the small structure, out of sight. At times, Kaiser raised his pistol at the garage door while the pair awaited backup. However, he did not attempt to contact those inside or identify himself as law enforcement. 

“We’re trying to make it not known that we’re here. If that changes I’ll let you know,” Kaiser said over the radio at one point while standing by the garage door. Speaking over the radio, he also said he and the other officer were trying to not let their presence be known until more officers could arrive.

After he had been at the garage for about five and a half minutes, the sound of police sirens in the distance can be heard on the body cam footage.

“Turn your siren off, I can hear you,” Kaiser said over his radio. 

As the sirens continued, unintelligible, but what seemed to be increasingly agitated voices could be heard coming from inside the garage. Then, following a mechanical clanking, the garage door started to rise up from the ground in an attempt to open it, resulting in Kaiser slamming it shut while aiming his pistol at the door.

Despite alerting the juveniles inside the garage to the presence of people outside by slamming the door shut, he still did not identify himself as a police officer, try to get them to surrender or otherwise attempt to communicate with them.

“Hey, I need anybody — I just need them to step it up. They just tried to get out,” Kaiser says over the radio. “We're going to have multiple people. I just shut the garage door on them. I got them trapped in. I think they’re probably trying to get out the window.”

Kaiser kept his left hand on the door while on the radio, but then took it off and moved a few steps away to look around the corner of the garage. As he did, the garage door opened, and four juveniles were standing inside next to a red car. Kaiser rushed towards them, but did not identify himself as a police officer, demand their surrender or issue any other commands. He ran towards them with his gun in his right hand and appeared to try to put his arms around one individual.

The gun appeared to be in the officer’s hand when it fired. However, he did not appear to be aiming it in the body camera footage. In edited, slowed down body camera footage LMPD included in the 15-minute-long video, the department circled a portion ahead of the shooting to show his finger was off the trigger, as is standard gun safety. At the actual moment of the shooting, LEO could not observe the gun or the officer’s hand in the frame.

While three of the people inside the garage fled — including the two who were hit by the shot — officers handcuffed and detained one, a Black teen. 

Sam Aguiar, who was the attorney for Breonna Taylor’s family, said in a statement Friday that he was representing the boys who had been shot and called for Kaiser to be fired. 

“The officer shot multiple unarmed boys who were trying to run. And, whether it was intentional or not, it’s clear that the officer knew he shot them,” said Aguiar. “We hear the officer saying ‘fuck’ and calling for a commanding officer.”

Speaking to LEO by phone, Aguiar said one of the teens suffered a “through and through to the elbow” while the other had an entry wound below the hip and an exit wound “to the right side of the stomach.” LMPD has previously described the injuries as “minor” and said that one bullet hit both teens.

Aguiar said the four boys were between 13 and 15-years old and described them as high school football players and “good kids.”

Aguiar told LEO the teens had not been charged with any crime and did not steal a car.

“They were out, you know, being stupid,” he said.

Asked on Feb. 21, whether the officer’s gun trigger was pulled or whether it had discharged after being dropped, LMPD Deputy Chief Paul Humphrey said: “We haven’t determined why the gun was discharged at this point. Based on what we saw, it appears to be accidental.”

In text released alongside the body cam footage on Friday, LMPD said: “As one officer tried to stop the suspects, his service weapon discharged one bullet.”

After the shot was fired, Kaiser did not verbally acknowledge it or mention it to the other officer when they came from the back of the garage to help detain one of the four teens. LEO could not see blood, injuries or other visible evidence that somebody had sustained a gunshot wound in the body camera footage released on Friday.

LMPD said following the shooting, two teens who had suffered gunshot wounds showed up at downtown hospitals. While the department said the teens gave differing stories, they said they were able to determine they were both at the scene through investigation. 

After the shooting, Kaiser can be heard saying “Fuck…There was like six or seven people in here. I’m going to need a CO,” before the body camera cuts out.

In a Feb. 21, statement, LMPD said that the juvenile they detained was uninjured and that “no evidence presented itself that would alert officers on scene that anyone had been injured.”

On the same day, LMPD also said they did not recover any weapons from the scene and “had not confirmed that anyone was armed.” Police have yet to publicly announce any charges against any of the teens, with Humphrey, the deputy chief, saying last week that whether there were charges or not would “come out as part of the investigation.”

Kaiser — the officer who confronted the teens — remains on administrative leave pending an investigation into the shooting. LMPD said he joined the department in 2016.

LMPD released the body cam footage as a major thunderstorm lashed Louisville, causing flickering lights and forcing residents to watch weather updates amid a State of Emergency declared by Gov. Andy Beshear. In the video, LMPD wrote: “Please be advised that the timing of the release of body camera footage varies from case to case.”

Aguiar, the attorney for the teens’ families, characterized LMPD’s framing of edited portions of the video as misleading in his statement, criticizing an emphasis by LMPD of how the officer was following his training by keeping his finger off the trigger as the garage door opened and he approached the teens.

“How about something in the video stating that the officer shot multiple unarmed boys running away, and that this is not consistent with training?” he said. “Or that the officer defied his training when he tried to tackle civilians while pointing his gun at them with his finger on the trigger?”

A spokesperson for Mayor Craig Greenberg did not respond to an inquiry from LEO as to whether the mayor had watched the video and if he would be issuing a statement.