Sudanese refugee killed by police had violent history

AP News
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Posted: Jun 15, 2015 6:52 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Deng Manyuon stood in the middle of an intersection on a 33-degree morning in March 2013, wearing just shorts and a T-shirt and shouting at passing cars.

The Sudanese refugee, "manifestly under the influence of alcohol," then kicked a police officer in the rib cage, according to court records. Officers subdued him safely that morning.

But on Saturday, he swung a 7-foot flagpole at Louisville Metro Police Officer Nathan Blanford and the officer shot him dead, sparking a debate in the city about officers' use of deadly force and their sensitivity when dealing with the mentally ill or intoxicated.

Court records that chronicle Manyuon's seven years in Louisville describe a troubled man with mental illness and alcoholism, who routinely lashed out at the officers who tried to rein him in.

Manyuon, alternatively spelled Manyoun in records, was in and out of jail and downtown homeless shelters, and was a familiar presence on the streets around the Old Louisville intersection where he was killed Saturday.

He spoke Dinka, a language of southern Sudan, according to court translation records. He struggled to communicate in English, his friends said.

Manyuon fled war-torn Sudan in 2001 and settled in Nashville, according to Bart Weigel, communications director for Catholic Charities of Louisville, which offers resettlement services to refugees.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services declined to discuss his immigration status, citing privacy concerns.

Weigel said he moved to Louisville in 2008, though he never reached out to the organization for help.

His legal troubles began soon after he arrived. He has been arrested 16 times since 2008, mostly for alcohol-related misdemeanors. But he sometimes fought the police officers trying to take him in.

In January 2011, he refused to leave a supermarket and employees called police. Manyuon, smelling of alcohol, banged on the police cruisers and rushed toward the officers, his hands clenched, according to court documents. Manyuon later pleaded guilty to resisting arrest.

In May 2012, he yelled and spit at officers, then balled up his fists and charged at them, according to the police account in court records. He pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct.

In March 2013, he kicked the officer in the chest for attempting to coax him out of the middle of the street, according to records. He pleaded guilty to third-degree attempted assault on a police officer.

Five months later, he went to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service office in the federal courthouse in Louisville. He approached a service window, reached under the glass and knocked over a computer, according to an affidavit filed by United States Marshals. He threw his employment authorization card at the clerk and pulled her keyboard through the service window.

A security guard stopped him as he tried to flee the building, the affidavit says. Manyuon tried to pick up a trashcan to throw at the guard, but he couldn't lift it. Another guard tried to stop him; Manyuon tried to kick him in the chest but missed, according to the affidavit, then punched him in the face.

Security wrestled him to the ground and arrested him.

His public defender told the court her client intended to use the insanity defense. His psychiatric records and evaluation are sealed in the court record. He was eventually found competent and pleaded guilty. He was sentenced to time served and fined $100. The federal public defender's office in Louisville declined to comment.

On Saturday, Manyuon allegedly attacked a stranger on the street, grabbed her purse and threw it, then punched her in the face.

Blanford, responding to that attack, saw Manyuon staggering across the street.

A surveillance camera outside a smoke shop captured their interaction. The officer confronted Manyuon, who flails his arms and storms away, out of the view of the camera. Blanford started to follow, then stops suddenly, takes two steps back and draws his gun.

Manyuon charges back into the frame, the 7-foot pole cocked back over his shoulder. Blanford cowers against his cruiser as Manyuon swings the pole down toward him. It is unclear if he was hit.

Blanford fired two shots, and Manyuon later died at the hospital.

Blanford's personnel jacket includes 18 commendations and a handful of minor reprimands for skipping court appearances.

Activists questioned why Blanford first used his gun instead of non-lethal force to subdue an intoxicated man with a flagpole.

Louisville Metro Police Chief Steve Conrad defended that decision, saying Blanford had mere seconds to react to the threat and likely felt his life was in danger.

"Policing can absolutely be a dynamic and complex job," the chief said. "It requires split second decisions that will be looked at and second guessed and judged and scrutinized for, literally forever."

The shooting remains under investigation.