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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Gunman who killed five in Louisville left note, bought rifle legally

Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg, left, and Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear speak at a news conference near the scene of a shooting in downtown Louisville, April 10, 2023. At least five people were killed and eight others were injured in a shooting at a bank downtown on Monday morning, the police said. The suspected gunman died at the scene.

By Tim Arango

The 25-year-old man who opened fire Monday at a bank in downtown Louisville, Kentucky, killing five people, told at least one person that he was suicidal before the rampage and legally purchased the AR-15-style rifle used in the shooting at a local dealership last week, officials said Tuesday morning.

Speaking at a news briefing, the officials also said they had carried out a search warrant at the home of the gunman, who died in an exchange of gunfire with police, and recovered several items. The police said they would release body camera footage on Tuesday afternoon from officers who responded to the shooting.

“We know he left a note,” Rep. Morgan McGarvey, a Democrat whose district includes Louisville, said of the gunman at the briefing. “We know he texted or called at least one person to let them know he was suicidal and contemplating harm.”

Four victims remained hospitalized on Tuesday, said Dr. Jason Smith, the chief medical officer at University of Louisville Health. Two of those people, including Nickolas Wilt, 26, who had recently graduated from the police academy and was working his fourth shift as a police officer when he responded to the shooting, remained in critical condition. Four other people who were wounded have been released from the hospital, while another who initially survived the shooting, Deana Eckert, 57, died overnight.

The other victims, all employees of Old National Bank like Eckert, were Joshua Barrick, 40; Thomas Elliott, 63; Juliana Farmer, 45; and James Tutt, 64. Elliott, a vice president at the bank, was a prominent Democratic fundraiser and close friend to Gov. Andy Beshear of Kentucky.

Mayor Craig Greenberg of Louisville, a Democrat, praised the quick response from the Red Cross, which provided 170 units of blood to treat victims on Monday. Noting the enormous amount of blood needed to treat gunshot wounds, Greenberg urged residents of Louisville to donate blood. And to help the community process the trauma of Monday’s shooting, which Greenberg described as an “inexplicable act of violence and cruelty,” the city is planning a vigil Wednesday evening at the Muhammad Ali Center Plaza.

Police have identified the gunman as Connor Sturgeon, a University of Alabama graduate who listed his profession as a “syndications associate and portfolio banker” at Old National Bank on his LinkedIn page. Greenberg said he had access to the building because he was “a current employee.”

As officials on Tuesday dealt with the fallout from the mass shooting, several made emotional pleas to address the gun violence epidemic gripping the country and Louisville, where they said 40 people died so far this year in shootings. One person was killed in a separate shooting on Monday just blocks away from Old National Bank.

“To be honest with you, we barely had to adjust our operating room schedule to be able to do this,” Smith said of caring for the nine patients the hospital received from the bank shooting. “That’s how frequently we are having to deal with gun violence in our community.”

With his voice breaking, Smith, who has worked at the hospital for 15 years, described his job almost as if he were a combat medic in a war zone. “It’s more than tired,” he said. “I’m weary. There’s only so many times you can walk into a room and tell someone they are not coming home tomorrow. And it just breaks your heart when you hear someone screaming mommy or daddy. It just becomes too hard, day in and day out, to be able to do that.”

Police first got word of shots fired at the bank at 8:38 a.m. Monday, and officers arrived on the scene within 3 minutes, killing the gunman 3 minutes after that. Wilt and his field training officer, Cory Galloway, “heroically ran into a barrage of fire from a waiting assailant with an assault rifle,” Greenberg said. Galloway fired the shots that killed the assailant.

The Louisville Metro Police Department has been under intense scrutiny in recent years after a botched raid in 2020 killed Breonna Taylor, a Black woman whose death provoked widespread protests; a recent Justice Department report documented entrenched racial bias and misconduct in the Police Department. But the department has drawn wide praise for its quick response to Monday’s shooting.

“Chief, your team was incredible yesterday,” McGarvey said at Tuesday’s briefing, addressing Jacquelyn Gwinn-Villaroel, the interim police chief. “To run headfirst into that gunfire without question saved lives. It also changed lives. Officer Wilt, as we know, is fighting right now after being struck in the head by an AR-15 round on his fourth-ever shift as a police officer.”

Wilt, who underwent brain surgery on Monday, graduated from the police academy on March 31.

The shooting set off a familiar pattern of grief and resignation for a country that has grown accustomed to frequent rampages of gun violence, with politicians offering prayers and expressing outrage and making calls for gun control legislation that will most likely go unrealized.

Greenberg implored Kentucky’s political leaders to allow Louisville, a blue bastion in a largely conservative state, to enact its own gun control laws — especially, he said, if they cared about protecting police officers.

“Please, change our state law to let Louisville make its own decisions about reducing the amount of illegal guns on our streets and gun violence that is killing far too many people in mass shootings, in individual shootings, in any shootings,” he said.

He also angrily denounced a law that allows the state of Kentucky to auction off weapons from shootings to the public after investigations are complete.

“Think about that,” Greenberg said, noting that he has ordered his administration to remove firing pins from confiscated weapons before handing them over to the state. “That murder weapon will be back on the streets one day under Kentucky’s current law.”

McGarvey, the only Democrat in Kentucky’s eight-member congressional delegation, called on Tuesday for universal background checks and measures that would allow the state to take guns from people believed at risk of harming themselves or others, known as red flag laws.

“We know this shooter purchased an AR-15 rifle on April 4,” he said. “We know he left a note. We know he texted or called at least one person to let them know he was suicidal and contemplating harm. But we don’t have the tools on the books to deal with someone who is an imminent danger to themselves or to others.”

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