LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) – Protestors will no longer be allowed to camp overnight in Jefferson Square Park after a man was shot and killed and a second person was wounded.
The park was cleared by police officers following the shooting that happened around 9 p.m. Saturday, according to Louisville Metro Police Department spokesman Lamont Washington.
A man, identified by the Jefferson County Coroner’s Office as Tyler Gerth, 27, was pronounced dead inside the park. A second shooting victim was taken to University of Louisville Hospital with injuries that did not appear to be life-threatening.
On Sunday morning, Washington said peaceful gatherings could continue during the day but tents and overnight stays would be prohibited.
“We continue to support the peaceful exercise of free speech. However, our primary focus must be on public safety,” Washington said.
During a press conference Sunday afternoon, Chief of Public Services Amy Hess said no camping signs had been posted in the park before the protests but officials were trying to balance First Amendment rights. She stated once camping became a public safety concern the decision to enforce the city ordinance was made.
LMPD interim chief Robert Schroeder said if someone tries to set up a tent officers will instruct them to take it down and if the person persists they could be charged.
Washington said the park would be close at 11 p.m. each night and will reopen at 6 a.m. Failure to leave the park could result in a criminal trespassing charge, Washington said. He also said any property left in the park overnight would be considered abandoned and would be removed.
Metro Public Works employees cleared tents and belongings from the park Sunday morning. Washington said those items would be available to pickup at 600 Meriwether Avenue later on Sunday but a time was not released.
During Sunday’s briefing, Schroeder apologized for the way items removed from the park were handled.
The LMPD Homicide Unit is continuing to investigate the shooting. Mayor Greg Fischer said police did have a suspect in custody at an area hospital. The suspect’s name has not been released. Schroeder said the suspect had been asked to leave the park repeatedly by other members in the park due to his disruptive behavior. He also said the suspect had been arrested several times over the past couple of weeks.
Schroeder said several other people in the park were armed and investigators are working to determine who fired shots.
Anyone with information in the case is asked to call the anonymous police tip line at (502) 574-LMPD.