A Louisville bank employee armed with a rifle opened fire at his workplace Monday morning, killing five people – including a close friend of Kentucky’s governor – while livestreaming the attack on Instagram, authorities said.
Police arrived as shots were still being fired inside Old National Bank and killed the shooter in an exchange of gunfire, Louisville Metro Police Department Chief Jacquelyn Gwinn-Villaroel said. The city’s mayor, Craig Greenberg, called the attack “an evil act of targeted violence.”
The shooting, the 15th mass killing in the country this year, comes just two weeks after a former student killed three children and three adults at a Christian elementary school in Nashville, Tennessee, about 160 miles (260 kilometres) to the south. That state’s governor and his wife also had friends killed in that shooting.
In Louisville, the chief identified the shooter as 25-year-old Connor Sturgeon, who she said was livestreaming during the attack.
“That’s tragic to know that that incident was out there and captured,” she said.
Meta, the company that owns Facebook and Instagram, said in a statement that it had “quickly removed the livestream of this tragic incident this morning.”
Social media companies have imposed tougher rules over the past few years to prohibit violent and extremist content. They have set up systems to remove posts and streams that violate those restrictions, but shocking material like the Louisville shooting continues to slip through the cracks, prompting lawmakers and other critics to lash out at the technology industry for slipshod safeguards and moderation policies.
A man who fled the building during the shooting told WHAS-TV that the shooter opened fire with a long rifle in a conference room in the back of the building’s first floor.
“Whoever was next to me got shot – blood is on me from it,” he told the news station, pointing to his shirt. He said he fled to a break room and shut the door.
Nine people, including two police officers, were treated for injuries, University of Louisville Hospital spokeswoman Heather Fountaine said in an e-mail. One of the wounded, identified as 57-year-old Deana Eckert, later died, police said Monday night.
One of the wounded officers, 26-year-old Nickolas Wilt, graduated from the police academy on March 31. He was in critical condition after being shot in the head and having surgery, the police chief said. At least three patients had been discharged.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said he lost one of his closest friends in the shooting.
“Tommy Elliott helped me build my law career, helped me become governor, gave me advice on being a good dad,” said Beshear, his voice shaking with emotion. “He’s one of the people I talked to most in the world, and very rarely were we talking about my job. He was an incredible friend.”
Also killed in the shooting were Josh Barrick, Jim Tutt and Juliana Farmer, police said.
“These are irreplaceable, amazing individuals that a terrible act of violence tore from all of us,” the governor said.
Beshear spoke as the investigation in Louisville continued and police searched for a motive. Crime scene investigators could be seen marking and photographing numerous bullet holes in the windows near the front door of the bank, not far from Waterfront Park and minor league ballpark Louisville Slugger Field.
As part of the investigation, police descended on the neighbourhood where the suspect lived, about 5 miles (8 kilometres) south of the downtown shooting. The street was blocked as federal and local officers talked to residents. One home was cordoned off with caution tape. Kami Cooper, who lives in the neighbourhood, said she didn’t recall ever meeting the suspect but said it’s an unnerving feeling to have lived on the same street as someone who could do such a thing.
“I’m almost speechless. You see it on the news but not at home,” Cooper said. “It’s unbelievable, it could happen here, somebody on my street.”
Deputy Police Chief Paul Humphrey said the actions of responding police officers undoubtedly saved lives.
“This is a tragic event,” he said. “But it was the heroic response of officers that made sure that no more people were more seriously injured than what happened.”
Just a few hours later and blocks away, an unrelated shooting killed one man and wounded a woman outside a community college, police said.
The 15 mass shootings this year are the most during the first 100 days of a calendar year since 2009, when 16 had occurred by April 10, according to a mass killings database maintained by The Associated Press and USA Today in partnership with Northeastern University. The pace slowed later in 2009, with 32 mass killings recorded that year.
Going back to 2006, the first year for which data has been compiled, the years with the most mass killings were 2019 and 2022, with 45 and 42 mass killings recorded during the entire calendar year.
It was the second time that Beshear was personally touched by a mass tragedy since becoming governor.
In late 2021, one of the towns devastated by tornadoes that tore through Kentucky was Dawson Springs, the hometown of Beshear’s father, former two-term Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear. Andy Beshear frequently visited Dawson Springs as a boy and has talked emotionally about his father’s hometown.