7 shot during protests in Louisville, police say

At least one person was described as being in critical condition. The shooting did not involve police, but occurred amid protests.

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By Phil Helsel and Dennis Romero

Seven people were shot in Louisville, Kentucky, one of whom was in critical condition, during protests that turned violent Thursday night, police said.

Circumstances of the shootings were not immediately clear, and a police spokesman called the situation downtown fluid early Friday.

Officers were not involved in the shootings, Police Sgt. Lamont Washington said.

No other details were immediately available from police. Mayor Greg Fischer said in a video statement early Friday that seven people were shot "from within the crowd" and no police officers fired their weapons. Five were in good condition, two were sent to surgery, he said, adding "my prayers are with all of them."

The violence happened as hundreds had gathered to protest the death of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old woman who was killed by Louisville police this spring.

"What we are seeing tonight in this community is the obvious frustration of the tension between police and residents," police special adviser Jessie Halladay said earlier in a video call.

"What started out as a peaceful protest earlier this evening is now escalating into property damage, more aggressive action, and we've just heard reports of shots fired in the crowd," she said at the time. She said that in addition to property damage bottles had been thrown at officers.

The Louisville crowd had gathered to decry the death of Taylor, who was fatally shot by Louisville police during a raid at her home in the early-morning hours of March 13.

She was home with her boyfriend, and the two thought their apartment was being broken into when the boyfriend fired at police after calling 911, the family said in a lawsuit. Neither had any criminal history or history with drugs and no drugs were found, the suit says. The FBI is investigating.

But Thursday's protest erupted as crowds gathered across the nation to call for action in the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who died Monday after a white Minnesota police officer placed his knee over his neck. In Minneapolis, a police precinct caught fire Thursday night during protests there.

In Louisville Thursday, several hundred protesters converged on downtown Louisville for several hours, NBC affiliate WAVE reported.

Bernard Bradberry, 44, came to the protest with his son A.J., and they said they wanted justice, the Louisville Courier-Journal newspaper reported.

Bradberry called what he and others see as a lack of police accountability "a slap in the face," the newspaper reported. "It’s like, do they even feel sorry for what they’ve done?" he asked.

At one point in the night, crowds were seen facing off against officers with batons and in riot gear.

One officer was seen firing what appeared to be a paintball gun. Those are sometimes used to shoot "pepper balls" but it was not clear what was used, although people in the crowd behaved as though there was an irritant in the air, video showed.

People in the crowd used tables as shields and chanted "Whose streets? Our streets!" according to video from the scene.

Fischer, the mayor, tweeted a video from Taylor's family late Thursday in which the woman in the video called for peace.

"Louisville, thank you so much for saying Breonna's name tonight," the woman says. "We are not going to stop until we get justice. But we should stop tonight before people get hurt. Please go home, be safe, and be ready to keep fighting."

Washington, the police spokesman, said that there have been some arrests related to the protest, but he did not know how many early Friday and said more information would be available later in the day.

Fischer in the video statement said that "my thanks go to the police officers who despite risks to themselves got aid to those injured" in the shooting.

"I feel the community's frustration, the anger, the fear — but tonight's violence and destruction is not the way to solve it," he said. "Breonna's death was a terrible tragedy, but as Breonna's family said tonight, answering violence with violence is not the answer."

CORRECTION (May 29, 2020, 4:20 a.m. ET): An earlier version of this article misspelled the mayor's last name. He is Greg Fischer, not Fisher.