A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Lawsuit filed against two Kentucky State Police troopers by family of Gary Bressler, killed by them

By Judy Clabes
NKyTribune editor

A lawsuit has been filed in U.S. District Court in Covington on behalf of Heather Bressler, widow of Gary Bressler, and her children against two Kentucky State Troopers who shot and killed Bressler at his Williamstown home on November 4, 2021.

Gary Bressler

The suit was filed by Northern Kentucky attorney Paul Hill of Fort Mitchell.

Bressler, 48, who was suffering from depression, was at home with his family that evening and had been drinking Kentucky Tavern whiskey, when he quietly grabbed a Samurai word, went to the front yard, and phoned 911.

According to his family, he made no threats and never lifted the sword or brandished it.

Two state troopers, identified as Zachary Lusk and Douglas Holt, arrived within minutes and parked 50-60 feet away from Bressler. They took cover behind their cars and told Bressler to drop the sword two times. He did not drop the sword.

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See the NKyTribune’s story about the death of Gary Bressler in 2021

See the follow-up NKyTribune story on the Bressler family looking for answers.
• • • • • • • • • •

As his wife and children stood by, they were screaming, “Don’t hurt my dad!” and “He just needs help.”

But within seconds of the troopers’ second request, they shot and killed him. Postmortem examination showed seven entrance-exit wounds and one graze wound.

The suit says “no reasonable officers could have thought that shooting multiple shots at Gary Bressler when he was approximately 60 feet away from them and not threatening anyone was lawful.”

The state troopers were not wearing body cams, as is their policy.

Heather Bressler

At the time of the filing of this complaint, four months after the incident, no KSP report has been provided to the Grant County Commonwealth Attorney for her review and a decision on how or whether to present the case to a grand jury for potential criminal charges.

Hill says the family wants the officers to be held accountable — and hope the lawsuit results in the KSP providing video equipment to their officers and that a third-party agency begins the investigation of officer-involved shootings.

The suit alleges excessive force, assault and battery, wrongful death, and emotional distress. It asks for a trial by jury, compensatory damages, punitive damages, and attorney fees and costs.

The complaint says:

“Kentucky State Police officers have shot and killed at least 41 people from 2015 through 2020. That represents more fatal shootings than any other law enforcement agency in the state. In fact, Kentucky troopers have killed more people in rural communities than any department nationwide. About a quarter of those killed were not armed with a gun when state police shot them, and a majority were suffering from addiction or mental health problems. The state police investigate their officers’ shootings with no outside oversight. No Kentucky trooper was prosecuted for any of the 41 deaths.”

Despite multiple attempts and messages, the Northern Kentucky Tribune was not able to reach a Kentucky State Police spokesperson. No one answered the phone in the KSP communications office when multiple calls were made to two separate numbers.

Read the complaint as it was filed with the U.S. District Court.

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