Killing of Handcuffed Man Troubles Officials

Dec 31, 1969 07:00 PM EST

LOUISVILLE, La – The killing of a handcuffed man by police brings two top Presbyterian Church USA officials to send a letter to the mayor of Louisville, David Armstrong, in expressing “profound dismay over the killing.”

The Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick, stated clerk of the General Assembly, and John Detterick, executive director of the General Assembly Council, urged the mayor to "do everything possible to see that a complete and thorough investigation of the facts of this case is undertaken."

The two officials were most disturbed that Detective Mike O’Neil fired 12 shots at James E. Taylor though Taylor’s hands were handcuffed behind his back. Police report however, that Taylor was armed with a “razor Knife” and was making “slicing motions” at the officers. Police spokesmen also say that another detective at the scene, Brian Luckett, was unable to disarm Taylor despite peaceful efforts. Taylor, who died from 11 shots, was charged posthumously with two counts of reckless endangerment.

Taylor is the fifth African-American man shot and killed by Louisville police in the past three years. Accordingly, the Louisville FBI office has launched a civil-rights investigation.

Dr. Richard Greathouse, the county coroner, said Taylor had alcohol and cocaine in his bloodstream when he was killed, but termed the police response "very troubling, to say the least."

Protesters have demanded that the detectives be fired and called for the resignation of of Police Chief Greg Smith.

The following is the letter from the PCUSA GA

December 16, 2002

Hon. David Armstrong

Mayor, City of Louisville

City Hall

601 W. Jefferson St.

Louisville, KY 40202

Dear Mayor Armstrong:

As representatives of the Office of the General Assembly and of the General Assembly Council of the Presbyterian Church (USA) and as representatives of our corporate community at 100 Witherspoon Street, we wish to join our voices with all who have expressed profound dismay over the killing of Mr. James E. Taylor by Louisville police while he was handcuffed.

While we do not know the details, we have read the reactions of the Jefferson County Coroner, Dr. Richard Greathouse, and of the Commonwealth's Attorney, Dave Stengel. We are appalled that it should have been necessary for a police detective to fire multiple shots at Mr. Taylor while Mr. Taylor's hands were handcuffed behind his back.

Our General Assemblies have called upon our members and upon all citizens to find ways to work together with law enforcement officials to insure humane practices in the enforcement of the law, a part of which is to protect citizens against unreasonable use of lethal force. We call upon you to insure that in the remaining days of your tenure as Mayor you will do everything possible to see that a complete and thorough investigation of the facts of this case is undertaken, and that in the event there is evidence of excessive use of lethal force by those involved, appropriate judicial action will be taken.

We recognize that the final resolution of this case will doubtless take place on Mayor Abramson's "watch," but we trust that you will put in place the necessary mechanisms to insure that this process is not halted or unduly delayed under the new administration.

Cordially yours,

Clifton Kirkpatrick

Stated Clerk of the General Assembly

John Detterick

Executive Director, General Assembly Council