1 dead in Thursday incident in Portland

Louisville Courier Journal

Published 2:10 PM EST Nov 8, 2019

Louisville Metro Police shot and killed a man outside a Kroger supermarket in Portland neighborhood on Thursday evening after he allegedly fired at officers following an altercation inside the store that caused customers to duck for cover and flee the building. 

The incident comes a little more than a year after a man allegedly shot and killed two African American shoppers at a Kroger store in Jeffersontown in what many say was a hate crime.

The Portland shooting, in the 500 block of N. 35th Street, was reported around 6 p.m. When officers arrived at the store, they "encountered a man firing a gun and firing shots outside the entrance of the store, and he was firing at our officers," police Chief Steve Conrad said in a late night press conference outside LMPD headquarters. 

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Officers killed the man as they returned fire, he said, adding that there were no reports of other injuries.

Conrad said there were officers nearby who were able to respond quickly to the calls of gunfire inside the store.

Jabani Bennett, a teacher,

said she was inside the store when she saw a man’s red flip flops on the ground. She heard there was a fight and described seeing two men: one older, maybe in his 60s, and another younger man. 

As managers and others got closer, someone said the young man was holding a knife. But they quickly realized it was a gun. 

“He just looked angry and out if it,” she said.

She ran to her car, leaving everything behind, and tried to pull around front to run inside for her purse and phone. It was then she heard maybe six gunshots.

As she pulled around to the front, she rear-ended a woman who was letting a family in her car.

“I feel vulnerable,” she said. 

Several witnesses reported hearing anywhere from five to nine shots, both inside and outside the Kroger. Conrad said earlier Thursday that preliminary information suggested people both fled Kroger and hid when news of a shooter got out. 

One witness who'd been standing in the cold with friends for several hours while police investigated the scene inside Kroger said when she arrived to see her mother around 6 p.m., police tape was already up.

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Conrad said that the weather and the size of the scene complicated the matter, but having resources dispatched quickly helped.

For example, TARC buses at the scene could be seen sheltering people who'd been taken beyond the police tape from the store. 

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The Kroger remains closed Friday while police investigate.

The store's parking lot was open Friday, with numerous shoppers arriving around noon and walking up to the entrance only to see a sign that read, "Attention customers: Store currently closed."

Just inside the entrance to the store, crews could be seen working in a small area that was cordoned off by police tape. A Kroger employee said the store would likely remain closed the rest of Friday.

"Thanks to the quick response of the local police department, our store is now secure. The safety of our customers and associates is our first priority," said a statement from the Cincinnati-based supermarket chain. "Our store is closed and will reopen after the investigation concludes. Kroger is grateful for our trusted partnership with the LMPD and stands ready to assist in any way."

A public integrity unit is investigating the shooting, Conrad said, adding that another press conference will take place Friday afternoon and body camera footage would be provided Friday as well.  

For some, Thursday's incident likely brought back memories of Oct. 24, 2018, when Gregory Bush allegedly shot and killed Maurice Stallard and Vickie Lee Jones at the Kroger store off Taylorsville Road in Jeffersonville.

Bush, who is white, is facing murder and hate crime charges in state and federal court after he allegedly killed Jones and Stallard, both black shoppers, and allegedly told one bystander that "whites don't shoot whites."

The families of Stallard and Jones along with a customer inside the store at the time of the 2018 shooting have each filed lawsuits against Kroger and Bush, claiming that Kroger had no policies in place to prevent Bush from using a loaded firearm in its store.

In September, Kroger asked its customers to stop openly carrying guns in its stores following a string of mass shootings around the country.

Reach Tessa Duvall at [email protected] and 502-582-4059. Twitter: @TessaDuvall. Support strong local journalism by subscribing today: courier-journal.com/subscribe. 

Reach breaking news reporter Sarah Ladd at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @ladd_sarah. Support strong local journalism by subscribing today: courier-journal.com/subscribe.

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