Friday, December 13, 2002

No drugs found in home of man killed in cuffs

The Associated Press

LOUISVILLE - No illegal drugs were found in a search of the apartment of a man who was handcuffed and shot to death by a police detective last week, according to court records.

Crack pipes were found at the apartment of James Edward Taylor, 50, according to the documents. Police spokeswoman Helene Kramer said the paraphernalia was being tested for residue and that the results of a drug screen conducted as part of Mr. Taylor's autopsy may not be available for several weeks.

Louisville Police Chief Greg Smith has said that witnesses who were in Mr. Taylor's apartment when he was shot Dec. 5 told investigators that they and Mr. Taylor had been smoking crack cocaine and drinking vodka. .

Wednesday, Mr. Taylor's estate filed a wrongful death suit against Detective Mike O'Neil, alleging that he shot and killed Mr. Taylor - after Mr. Taylor's hands had been handcuffed behind his back - "without just or legitimate cause."

The suit also alleges that Detective O'Neil's partner, Detective Brian Luckett, failed in his duty to prevent Mr. Taylor's death and that the department failed to adequately train and supervise the officers, who joined the force in 1999.

Chief Smith said the detectives told investigators that Mr. Taylor, after he was handcuffed, took a knife into his hands, worked his hands around to his hip, and was able to make slicing motions that threatened the officers.

Chief Smith said Detective O'Neil fired one shot when Mr. Taylor first lunged at him, and 11 more when Taylor backed him into a corner. The coroner's office has not released information on how many bullets hit Mr. Taylor.

A search warrant returned to court Wednesday shows that 30 items were seized from the apartment, including a "razor boxcutter type knife" found in Mr. Taylor's right hand.

Chief Smith said at a news conference Dec. 6 that the blade was "at least 2 to 3 inches."

The department has declined to show the knife to reporters, but Ms. Kramer said it probably will be displayed later this week after it is "processed."

Twelve .40-caliber casings were found as well as a blue jacket with a bullet hole.

The lawsuit was filed in Jefferson County Circuit Court on behalf of Mr. Taylor's four children by lawyers Kathryn Wallace and Aubrey Williams.

The suit names as defendants Detectives O'Neil and Luckett, the police department and the city, which the complaint says is responsible for training officers to ensure that they discharge their duties in a "professional, just, humane and legal matter."

Mr. Taylor was charged posthumously with two counts of wanton endangerment for attempting to cut the detectives with the knife.

Both officers have been suspended, pending criminal and internal investigations.

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