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Kentucky police chief, criticized in fatal shooting of black woman, steps down

Fatal police shooting
Bianca Austin composes herself before making remarks at a vigil for her niece, Breonna Taylor, in Louisville, Ky.
( Sam Upshaw / Courier Journal)

A Kentucky police chief is abruptly retiring as calls for his ouster intensified in the aftermath of a fatal shooting by officers of a black woman in her home.

Louisville Police Chief Steve Conrad sent a letter to officers Thursday saying there had been “a lot of ups and downs” in the job since he started in 2012. Conrad has come under withering criticism in recent weeks as the family of Breonna Taylor has sued the department and called for his firing.

“You all are weathering a lot right now and I know how challenging this is,” Conrad wrote in the letter to officers. “Approach this as we approach all our struggles — as a team.”

Taylor, an emergency medical technician, was shot in her home March 13 during a warrant search. The warrant targeted a suspect who did not live at Taylor’s home, and police found no drugs.

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The FBI announced on Thursday it had started an investigation into the shooting.

Conrad has weathered a few department scandals and a no-confidence vote from Louisville’s Metro Council in 2017.

Benjamin Crump, a high-profile civil rights attorney who has joined the Taylor family’s legal team, said Conrad’s departure “is a significant step forward in getting justice for Breonna Taylor, her family and the city of Louisville.”

“We will not rest until everyone involved is held accountable, and Breonna Taylor gets the justice she so deserves,” Crump said Thursday in a statement.

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This week, Conrad was criticized by council member Barbara Shanklin during a public safety council meeting. She questioned Conrad’s leadership and why he was unable to answer several questions about search warrants.

“Sitting here listening, how do you run a department and not know what’s going on in the department?” Shanklin asked the chief. “I don’t care what goes wrong, you’re going to be blamed for it.”

Conrad responded that he commands a department of 1,500 employees, and that many of the questions are “issues that are handled in other areas of the department, lower down the chain of command,” and he would have to follow up with other commanders to get the answers.

Conrad said he would work through June 30.


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