A lawsuit names current Denver Police Chief Robert White as a defendant in a civil case accusing the Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) in Kentucky of botching a rape investigation.
The case, filed in U.S. District Court Western District of Kentucky, accuses White of stalling when the victim tried to file a complaint against the officer who originally responded to her case. Then, according to the suit, White granted early retirement to the officer in question.
The suit stems from an incident on April 27, 2008, when then-Kentucky resident Salisa Luster Harrison says she was beaten, strangled and sexually assaulted in her home.
The lawsuit alleges LMPD officers engaged in an “ongoing conspiracy” beginning on April 27, 2008 in investigating Luster Harrison’s case. Below is a timeline of events laid out in the lawsuit:
April 27, 2008: Then-Kentucky resident Salisa Luster Harrison was allegedly beaten, strangled and sexually assaulted in her home.
April 29, 2008, 11:27 a.m.: Luster Harrison’s co-workers became concerned she had not shown up to work. They went to her apartment and, seeing her car outside, called police for a welfare check. LMPD Officer Richard Woolridge responded and entered her apartment, barring the co-workers from entering. Woolridge came back outside within 5 minutes and told her co-workers that Luster Harrison was upset.”
He also told them he had spoken with her “boyfriend” and that “everything” was fine.
April 29, 2008, 11:36 a.m.: Woolridge closed the “event” and did not create a case file or take an official statement from the “boyfriend.” He also did not call in additional officers to investigate and the suit alleges he “left [Luster Harrison] there, motionless and semi-conscious on her couch, battered and clinging to life, with the likely assailant(s) either still in her home or in the immediate vicinity.” The “boyfriend” was not known to Luster Harrison and she believes he was likely one of her assailants.
April 29, 2008, 11:45 a.m.: Luster Harrison’s co-workers called the police again and asked the building manager to grant them access to her apartment. Upon entry, they found Luster Harrison “motionless on her couch in bloodstained clothing.” She also had a "huge welt on her face, facial bruises, blood in her eyes and...unable to talk coherently due to her overall poor state, which included a swollen tongue." Paramedics arrived ahead of officers and transport Luster Harrison to the hospital, where a rape kit was collected.
April 29, 2008, 11:59 a.m.: LMPD Officer Brian Tucker arrived at Luster Harrison’s apartment. “By this time, it was established that [Luster Harrison] had been violently sexually assaulted by an intruder(s) in her home.” The suit alleges Tucker did not get witness information and “ignored crucial evidence in [Luster Harrison’s] apartment.
April 30, 2008: Tucker initiates a criminal investigation which was “scant and omission-riddled” according to the suit, and “contained false information.” The suit claims that Tucker, Woolridge and other officers then prevented Luster Harrison's rape kit from getting tested in a timely fashion by relegating it to the commonwealth’s rape kit backlog among thousands of other neglected kits. The officers then falsely told [Luster Harrison], the prosecuting district attorney and others that her rape kit had been fully tested, according to the suit.
Late 2008: [Luster Harrison] and her mother, Cheryl Ellis, told the LMPD, including White, that they wished to file a citizen complaint against Woolridge. “She was informed by LMPD officials that her complaint could not be made over the telephone, and she would therefore need to travel back to Louisville, despite having moved back to her hometown, Little Rock, Arkansas for her medical treatment.” Those officials also allegedly told her she had all of February 2009 to make the complaint.
February 2009: [Luster Harrison] and Ellis traveled to Louisville to file a complaint and, once they arrived, LMPD told them White had already allowed Woolridge to retire early, in January 2009.
The suit claims, “White stalled and placated [Luster Harrison], which served to protect Wooridge until White could authorize his early retirement. Thus, White denied [Luster Harrison] the fair opportunity to file a citizen’s complaint against Woolridge for his April 29, 2008 investigatory misconduct and thus conspired with other defendants to conceal facts incriminating Woolridge from [Luster Harrison] and her mother for over ten (10) years.”
April 13, 2009: The County Attorney’s Office declined to press charges against Tucker and officially closed the case.
2009-2014: Ellis repeatedly asked LMPD to re-open the case and submitted Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to obtain records pertaining to [Luster Harrison’s] case.
2015: [Luster Harrison]’s case was re-opened following a statewide audit that revealed Kentucky had a backlog of more than 3,000 untested rape kits.
The lawsuit also alleges that LMPD lied to Luster Harrison about the status of her rape kit. The suit claims LMPD Sgt. David Allen told Luster Harrison in December 2016 the department re-tested her rape kit. A WHAS 11 News iTeam investigation obtained multiple records that claim LMPD likely misled Harrison about the re-testing of her rape kit.
White sent 9NEWS a written statement saying, "It would be inappropriate for me to comment on this case because it is pending litigation that also names other individuals."
9NEWS also reached out to the Jefferson County, Kentucky Attorney's Office, but was told they could not comment in time for publication.
Luster Harrison's case remains unsolved. She is seeking compensatory and actual damages.