Louisville Metro Council Person Jecorey Arthur was pulled over for a traffic stop back in 2021, his first year serving on Metro Council. It was within an hour or two after he voted against an LMPD contract.
Mr. Arthur, a Black man with long, beaded braids in his beard, is the youngest council person ever sworn in to Metro Council. He’s an outspoken community activist and educator who was elected to office during the height of the Breonna Taylor protests.
During the course of the police encounter, Jecorey can be repeatedly seen with his hands up, moving cautiously and courteously with the officers, now three of whom have arrived, presumably for a routine traffic stop.
Can’t say for sure.
I requested body cam footage to “include all video from the moment they first see him (before they decide to pull him over) to the end of their shifts.”
I did not get that.
Here’s what I did get.
These videos show a very peaceful, cooperative — almost submissive — Black man appearing to do everything he has been trained to do in order to avoid any opportunities for escalation. He was probably an excellent JCPS teacher.
I have no way of knowing if they had a legitimate reason for paying such close attention to him that night, or if they got lucky that he had expired tags AFTER they decided to give him a bit of a scare after such a bold “no” vote.
You see, LMPD turned the other cheek when Officer Harry Seeders shot and killed Brian Thurman on November for no known good reason. They claimed he was driving a vehicle that was thought to be stolen, but the video they released indicated otherwise. So, it’s not unreasonable to question their motivation for pulling Mr. Arthur over in the first place.
At the very least, it’s bad form to pull over a fresh, politically active and outspoken Black Metro Councilman after he votes against your contract, even IF we weren’t in the height of protests regarding the murder of Breonna Taylor. But since we were, it couldn’t have been more obvious this was an attempt to intimidate him.
Jecorey’s girlfriend arrives. The officer keeping watch over him jokes with them about his expired tags.
He retorts, “You must have been watching the council meeting tonight.”
“Yeah,” one of the officers responds as they laugh.
Mr. Arthur appears to be a humble man who would not think he deserves special treatment simply because he is on the Metro Council. He appears to be fully aware that his fate lies entirely in the hands of these officers, who no doubt pulled him over to send him a message. Best not make any sudden moves or do anything that might offend them, such as not laughing at their jokes. This is a moment where he legitimately has a right to believe his life could be on the line.
He nervously asks,
“Are you going to lock me up?”
Black men have been known to die in there. Others have been denied bail. It’s no laughing matter. But “going along to get along” is how some Black people stay alive in a town with a history of slave auctions, overpolicing and corruption.
“It could be worse,” he says to his girlfriend, no doubt referring to how others have fared in similar encounters.
“You can have dinner, go home and laugh about it. I just gave you a topic.”
As the awkward 20-minute detainment starts to come to a close, the officer returns Jecorey’s gun and it becomes more evident that they intend to let him go home with a ticket.
The officer begins with,
“Just a little word of advice.”
This statement instantly puts a “oh shit, here it comes” tone to the conversation.
The officer thanked Mr. Arthur for telling them about the gun, “because we hate finding them.” This evokes all kinds of visuals of what could have happened if Jecorey had not immediately assumed the “hands up, don’t shoot” pose and volunteered to get out of his car so they could check.
The officer goes on to say,
“If you’re going to have one, keep one in the chamber, man.
I noticed when I took the magazine out, there was nothing in there. Why take that extra second to put one in there?”
“I’m glad I didn’t tonight,” Arthur says, exchanging a nervous glance with his girlfriend. Clearly he is expressing concern that things might have gone differently if his gun had been more threatening to police officers.
Officers continue to fail to pick up on all of these obvious signals. Or do, but pretend they don’t. Officer Rodriguez, the same officer who let out an audible gasp when she first laid eyes on Jecorey in his long black robe and beaded beard, seems to be overexplaining her partner’s intentions at this point. She goes on and on, making insensitive jokes about how they “gave them a topic” to look back and laugh about.
The average person might not think it’s strange to get so much unsolicited advice about keeping a round in the chamber of his gun. However, to people who have been surrounded by police and gun violence for much of their lives, those words elevate the weight of the conversation and can be triggering.
“It’s your right to have a gun and have it how ever you want to. He’s just giving you advice. Especially with all our carjackings,” she rambles on.
Did you just say “CARJACKINGS?” Talk about loaded language! Telling a Black activist that the reason he should keep “one in the chamber” is due to the threat of a potential carjacking flashes back to the questionable murder of Travis Nagdy, who was reportedly killed by Ashton Nally during an alleged carjacking the VERY SAME NIGHT LMPD murdered an innocent man in the Portland neighborhood in Louisville’s West End. (See Brian Thurman above.) Many in the Black community believe that recent murders of activists, such as that of Travis Nagdy, are orchestrated by police, and that Ashton was set up as the perpetrator so the case would not remain open and subject to scrutiny. THERE’S YOUR THREAT!
Threats from racist police and other white supremacists are hardly ever explicitly worded. At least when their hoods are off. The language is coded.
I was speaking to a Black friend who has spent some time driving through Kentucky and Tennessee and she noticed right away how the words they used sound polite, but they carry hidden meaning. It reminded her of the stories she recalled of police in rural “sundown towns” pulling Black people over and offering them a “friendly warning,” such as, “It’s starting to get dark. You might want to get on home. Wouldn’t want anything bad to happen to you.”
This Buzzfeed article provides some examples,
Make no mistake, sundown towns still exist. Travel warnings have recently been issued against the US by Amnesty International. Seven countries have issued travel bans against the US, as well. And these threats are not just against Black people. The NAACP recently issued a travel warning for Florida reminding us that LGBTQ folx are also vulnerable.
Even if “sending a message” is not what the three officers had in mind when they pulled the gentle Councilman over that night, it’s how it felt, looked and sounded, not only to him, but to an entire community that has been terrorized by the very people our tax dollars pay to protect and serve us. LMPD, do better! Until you can stop denying your role in denying peace and justice to the Black families of West Louisville in particular, how can we trust you to do your jobs fairly, compassionately and without bias?
Mr. Arthur spent a year and a half replaying those loaded words over and over in his head. He didn’t have a bodycam to review. He wasn’t livestreaming the event. I can picture him and his girlfriend questioning the excruciating and surreal event afterwards. “Why did he tell me to keep my gun loaded? Was that a threat?”
Given their history, you have to consider the possibility.
During the April 27, 2023 Metro Council meeting where Mr. Arthur recalled those events on camera, he said he went to Chief Shields. He went to Interim Chief Yvette Gentry. They did nothing. They could have obtained the body cam footage and addressed the concern about the appropriateness of a the act that Shields reportedly admitted was “stupid.” They could have alleviated his fears and concerns. They didn’t. Instead they escalated them. LMPD FAILED HIM!
Facing a replay of the exact same scenario where he was about to vote “no” on another LMPD facility, he recalled those events from memory the way they felt to him a year and a half after they happened. The hit piece, which was published on WDRB a couple of weeks later as an “investigative report,” feels like more of the same retaliation and threats. Someone in power and with behind-the-scenes protection had the privilege to review the body cam footage (never mind how difficult it’s been for family members of Omari Cryer to get theirs) in order to find 10 seconds where his recollection was not EXACTLY like it appeared on camera. Let’s skip past all of the inappropriate comments and coded language that was used before, during and after, and only focus on the explicit content of the conversation.
How do we even know they didn’t alter the audio? Who is looking over their shoulders?
None of their overreactive spin regarding a split second in his entire 3-minute explanation of his most recent “no” vote negates the rest of what he said that is absolutely true. In fact, his speech is so powerful and impassioned, it’s no wonder they went out of their way to discredit him.
Watch the whole thing here.
What we know is that LMPD is so broken that the DOJ has been in town the past two weeks gathering community feedback in order to help our city negotiate a consent decree with them. Here is an opinion piece, written by a movement sister, entitled, The DOJ investigation validated what we’ve said for years. When will our voices be heard?
How can they, when victims of police overreach, terrorizing and harassment are never given the same platform?
At the end of the day, white people do not get to decide how a Black person feels. If Mr. Arthur felt threatened by our police, and they were “stupid” enough to detain him on the night of a “no” vote, that is unacceptable and MUST be dealt with.
I have made a follow up request for my open records to ask for the same thing I asked for the first time. I’ll keep you posted.