Hundreds gather to mourn those lost in Louisville mass shooting

Published 12:27 pm Thursday, April 13, 2023

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Kentucky Lantern

Hundreds filled the Muhammad Ali Center plaza steps Wednesday to mourn those lost in a mass shooting this week.

Some held signs calling for stricter gun laws, others sat in the sunny plaza with panting therapy dogs.

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Cocoa was one of the canines who came out to help people heal. For her first big event, she came out with her handler, Renny Smith, to help comfort Louisvillians.

She rested near the steps while people came up to pat her head or stroke her dark fur.

“A lot of times, people won’t say that they actually are hurting,” Smith said. “But they’ll pet the dog.”

Politicians and faith leaders spoke to the crowd during the hour-long vigil. They called for gun reform and unity, among other things.

The vigil came after a gunman killed five people and injured others at Old National Bank in downtown Louisville, where he worked, on Monday morning. Those killed are Joshua Barrick, Thomas Elliott, Juliana Farmer, James Tutt and Deana Eckert.

Rabbi Beth Jacowitz-Chottiner with Louisville’s Temple Shalom said it is time to “ban assault weapons that were created only for battlefields.”

Cheers and claps broke her sentence in half.

Whitney Austin, who survived being shot 12 times at Fifth Third Bank in Cincinnati in 2018, also addressed the crowd — through tears, at one point.

“Please don’t forget about them next week,” she said of Monday’s victims. “Don’t forget about them next month and don’t forget about them next year. They’re going to need your support for the rest of their lives.”

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg, state Sen. Gerald Neal and U.S. Rep. Morgan McGarvey also spoke.

“While I’m not angry, I’m empty and I’m sad,” said Beshear, who was friends with Elliott and others involved. His voice broke as he spoke. “I just keep thinking that maybe we’ll wake up.”

Greenberg called on the community to support the survivors who will now live with “physical and mental wounds that will take time to heal.”

“It’s important that we take time to acknowledge those losses, and what they mean for us as people and as a community,” he said. We have to do that so that later, we can gather our energies and focus on preventing these tragedies.”

Dr. Muhammad Babar of Louisville implored lawmakers at the state and federal level to “please, please, please, do something” about gun violence.

“I’m really fatigued and frustrated on this nonstop vicious cycle of deadly shootings in our nation. I’m dead tired of posting hollow words and prayers on … social media after each incident of mass shooting.”

Old National Bank CEO Jim Ryan said “there are no adequate words” to describe the pain employees of the bank feel right now, as well as the victims’ families.

“The greatest way we can continue to honor everyone who has been impacted by this tragedy is our do our best to follow their example,” he said. “We need to love one another. We need to care for one another. And we need to support one another.”

Cathy Mekus, who co-leads the Kentucky chapter of Moms Demand Action, told the Kentucky Lantern that now is the time both to grieve and fight.

“We need to mourn, we need to care for the people who’ve been hurt,” she said. “We can’t find a window between mass shootings, when we could just stand back and mourn…we need to do both at the same time.”

Three still hospitalized

In addition to those killed Monday, three people injured remain hospitalized.

One of those, Louisville police officer Nickolas Wilt, is still in critical condition.

Wilt was working only his fourth shift as a member of the force when dispatched to Monday’s shooting. He was shot in the head as he “ran towards the gunfire,” LMPD said.

After the shooting, nine people went to UofL Hospital for emergency treatment. Six of those have since gone home. One died and one remains at the hospital in stable condition.

UofL Health and American Red Cross officials have asked people to donate blood after UofL staff needed to use 170 units to save patients from the scene.

Mekus said she wants to see the gun used in Monday’s shooting destroyed.

“I’m afraid it’s going to end up being someone’s gruesome souvenir,” she said. “And I just don’t want that to happen.”

As the vigil ended around 6 p.m., singer Jason Clayborn led the crowd in Amazing Grace.