LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Two police officers were shot Wednesday night during downtown protests that erupted after a grand jury’s decision not to charge the officers who shot and killed Breonna Taylor. Only one of the officers involved was charged, with wanton endangerment.
About a half-hour before the city’s 9 p.m. curfew, two Louisville Metro police officers were shot while responding to a report of a large crowd and gunfire, interim Police Chief Robert Schroeder said at a news conference. Their injuries were not considered life-threatening.
Authorities identified the suspect Thursday as Larynzo Johnson, 26, who was taken into custody after the shooting. A police citation accuses Johnson of firing multiple times at officers with a handgun.
“Two officers with LMPD were struck by the bullets causing serious physical injury,” the citation says. “The listed subject was seen by witnesses firing a handgun at officers and running from the scene.”
The shooting was captured on video and allegedly shows Johnson shooting at the officers, according to the citation. He was in possession of a gun when he was arrested.
The shooting happened at First Street and Broadway, an intersection several blocks from the center of protests — Jefferson Square Park.
The sound of shooting was captured on a profanity-laden video of demonstrators amassed in the area, but NBC News has not verified that that was the gunfire that struck the officers.
The FBI’s Louisville field office said it had sent a SWAT team to the scene and would assist in the investigation.
“I am very concerned about the safety of our officers,” Schroeder said.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, in a video address posted Wednesday on Twitter, said: “We know that the answer to violence is never violence. And we are thinking about those two officers and their families tonight.”
President Donald Trump tweeted, “Praying for the two police officers that were shot tonight in Louisville, Kentucky.”
His election foe, former Vice President Joe Biden, tweeted his own “prayers” and said: “Violence is never & can never be the answer. Those who engage in it must be held accountable.”
News spread quickly of the grand jury’s decision Wednesday, and demonstrators took to the streets of Louisville, protesting Taylor’s killing and the limited charges brought against only one of the officers involved.
Protesters filled downtown neighborhoods after former Detective Brett Hankison was indicted on three counts of first-degree wanton endangerment connected with the shooting that ended in Taylor’s killing. Detective Myles Cosgrove, the officer who shot killed Taylor, was not charged.
Police, who declared an unlawful assembly hours before the curfew, clashed with demonstrators, pushing and shoving some and placing others in plastic handcuffs.
Tense moments played out as demonstrators and officers stood off near Jefferson Square Park. Police surrounded marchers and appeared to block them in. Water bottles were thrown at officers and law enforcement vehicles.
A protester attacked a news crew from NBC affiliate WAVE. The crew was able to get away unharmed with the help of a security guard.
After dark, small fires appeared downtown, and demonstrators started to clear out of the park. After the curfew went into effect, some demonstrators milled about in the downtown area.
Police said Thursday morning that 127 arrests were made during the protest.
Beshear’s office said in a statement that National Guard units were deployed to Louisville to “ensure that everybody can be safe during this period and that critical infrastructure, like our hospitals, are protected.”
State police and law enforcement in SWAT gear were seen standing near demonstrators.
Demonstrators also hit the streets of cities across the country, including New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Atlanta and St. Paul, Minnesota. They seemed to be largely peaceful, although there were reports that tear gas was used in Milwaukee after demonstrators went on to an interstate and in Atlanta, where several arrests were made.
In Denver, police said that officers responded to a “vehicle that drove into a protest” Wednesday night. No injuries are reported in the 9:17 p.m. incident, police said, and one person described as a male was detained. A police spokesman said the person detained was the driver, but how or why the incident occurred is still under investigation.
Earlier in the day, Judge Annie O’Connell announced that Hankison would be charged for firing shots that ended up in the apartments next to Taylor’s.
No charges were announced against Cosgrove or Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly for their roles in Taylor’s death, although the state attorney general said Cosgrove’s shot killed Taylor. Their actions were considered justified by the grand jury because Taylor’s boyfriend fired at them. No murder or manslaughter charges were handed up against any of the three officers.
Fighting back tears, Louisville resident LaShawn Roberts said the grand jury’s decision had hurt many people across Louisville and beyond.
“We’ve come so far, but we have so far to go,” Roberts said. “It makes me feel like we don’t mean s—.”
Protesters on foot and bikes descended on Jefferson Square Park, which has been dubbed “Breonna’s Park” since Taylor’s death.
Many raised their fists and chanted “Breonna Taylor,” encouraging friends to raise their voices as they marched past boarded-up windows and shuttered storefronts. Dozens of police cars kept close tabs on the protesters as they marched through the neighborhood.
“I am incredibly disheartened and heartbroken,” said Linette Lowe, a protester. “Many of us aren’t shocked, especially those of us who have witnessed the long history of injustice in our community.”
Michelle Pennix said she wasn’t surprised by the grand jury action, but she added, “I believe a day of reckoning is coming and those on the wrong side of history are going to be held accountable.”
Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron called for peace in light of what he conceded would be an unpopular decision.
“I know that not everyone will be satisfied with the charges that we reported today,” Cameron told reporters in Frankfort, the state capital. “Every person has an idea of what they think justice is. My role, as special prosecutor in this case, is to set aside everything in pursuit of the truth. My job was to present the facts to the grand jury and the grand jury then applies those facts to the law. “
He continued: “If we simply act on emotion or outrage, there is no justice. Mob justice is not justice. Justice sought by violence is not justice. It just becomes revenge.”
Taylor, 26, an emergency medical technician, was killed in March when the officers executed a search warrant in a drug investigation involving her ex-boyfriend Jamarcus Glover, a convicted drug dealer.
Glover used Taylor’s address to receive packages, according to authorities. However, no drugs or money were recovered during the raid, according to the search warrant inventory document obtained by NBC News.
Hankison, who shot 10 rounds into Taylor’s apartment, was fired in June. Cosgrove and Mattingly have been placed on administrative leave, along with the detective who requested the warrant.
The city of Louisville also settled a wrongful death suit filed by Taylor’s family for $12 million last week, which did not require the city to admit any wrongdoing.
The city installed roadblocks, barricades and chain-link fences at nearly every corner of the downtown area in preparation for the announcement. Meanwhile, police and Mayor Greg Fischer declared states of emergency and announced a 72-hour curfew running from 9 p.m. to 6:30 a.m.
Schroeder, the interim police chief, vowed to help protesters Wednesday, giving them a “safe place” to demonstrate.
“Whatever the decision is, our officers are prepared to keep doing what they have been doing continuously since May 28 — protecting the public while also ensuring the constitutional rights for people to express their feelings in a lawful and peaceful manner,” he said.
Chloe Atkins reported from Louisville, and David K. Li from New York.