Former Louisville officer sentenced to 2 years in prison for striking protester in head with baton

A former Louisville police officer was sentenced Tuesday to two years in prison for hitting a kneeling protester in the back of the head with a riot baton during a 2020 demonstration over Breonna Taylor’s death, federal officials said.

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Cory P. Evans, 34, had previously pleaded guilty to violating the constitution and using unreasonable force on May 31, 2020, while working as part of the Louisville Metro Police Department’s Special Response Team.

Evans attempted to arrest a group of people for unlawful assembly and violating curfew in the downtown area, according to a statement from the U.S. Department of Justice.

June 10, 202101:34

That’s when a person in the group surrendered by getting on his knees and placing his hands in the air, officials said.

“While that person was kneeling in this position, Evans struck him in the back of the head with a riot stick, which created a wound on the back of the kneeling victim’s head. The victim fell forward and was taken into custody by other LMPD officers,” the DOJ statement said.

“Former officer Evans abused his authority by violently retaliating against a surrendering arrestee who had been exercising his First Amendment rights during a demonstration in Louisville, during the racial justice demonstrations in the spring of 2020,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke. “The JusticeDepartment will continue to hold accountable officers who violate their oath and the Constitution.”

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In addition to his prison sentence, Evans was also sentenced to two years supervised release by U.S. District Court Judge Rebecca Grady Jennings in the Western District of Kentucky, officials said.

Evans’ attorney, Brian Butler, said in a statement Wednesday that his client’s actions during the 2020 protest must be looked at in context.

“Cory Evans is a combat veteran who served his nation in the War in Afghanistan. It is well documented that he saved at least four lives as a Louisville Police Officer. He took full responsibility for his split-second reaction,” Butler said.

“But, this incident must be viewed in light of the fact that during the Louisville riots officers were shot at nightly. They had Molotov cocktails thrown at them. They were pummeled with rocks, bricks, bottles of urine and bottles of rancid milk,” the statement said. 

“Cory will be forever disappointed that the Government that he served in combat rejected his request to have his case referred to Veteran’s Court and the Government sought a draconian sentence.”

Louisville police served Evans with pre-termination papers in June following his indictment on a charge of deprivation of rights under color of law. A spokesperson with the agency could not be immediately reached Wednesday to say when Evans formally split from the department.

After Evans’ indictment, police released 37 pages of his personnel history. Those files show a mixed record.

Evans was promoted to officer in March 2015 and commended for bravery and going beyond the call of duty multiple times.

He received a commendation letter from his police chief for loading a wounded shooting victim into an armored vehicle during a May 28, 2020, protest. Emergency medical personnel could not otherwise reach the victim because of a hostile crowd, records said.

In March 2020, he was lauded for keeping a woman calm who had jumped from a rail yard bridge into water. He first located her, then while speaking to her from a flood wall, ordered her to swim to the wall and hold on until firefighters rescued her.

However, he was also investigated and at times found to have violated department policy and procedures. Records show that in September 2015 Evans failed to activate video in an incident in which he fatally shot a pit bull.

He was also investigated for excessive force in a December 2018 incident, but exonerated. Those records were partially redacted.

Evans was also found to have crashed into another vehicle during a November 2019 pursuit in which he failed to use “due regard,” files said.

NBC affiliate WAVE of Louisville reported the 2020 protest was in response to Taylor’s death.

Taylor, 26, was shot in her home on March 13, 2020, after Louisville police officers executed a no-knock warrant at her residence. During the early morning raid, Taylor was killed by police in a shooting. Officers opened fire after Taylor’s boyfriend, believing an intruder was attempting to break in, fired a gun toward the door.

The botched raid targeted Taylor’s ex-boyfriend, a convicted drug dealer. That man, Jamarcus Glover, has said Taylor had no involvement in the drug trade.

Evans was not part of the raid.

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