This story was done in collaboration with Newsy.
Tammy Riggs was at work when she got an alert on her phone from a local news station about a police shooting. She watched the station’s live video stream for hours.
“And I didn’t know it was my son,” she said.
An investigation by KyCIR/Newsy has revealed major gaps in how the Louisville Metro Police Department and the Jefferson County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office keep families informed after their loved ones are killed by police officers.
The commonwealth’s attorney’s office said in an emailed statement that they tell families when investigations conclude, or leave that task to LMPD’s Public Integrity Unit, which “has some rapport with the families and is in a better position to communicate this difficult message.” An LMPD spokesperson said their communication “varies” on a case-by-case basis.
Tammy’s son, Billy Ray Riggs, was shot by an LMPD officer during a narcotic traffic stop in February 2018 after police and another passenger exchanged gunfire. He was taken to University of Louisville hospital and put on life support.
She said no one ever told her that her son was in the hospital. LMPD’s standard operating procedure says the hospital should notify the next-of-kin “whenever possible.” Carolyn Callahan, a spokesperson for University of Louisville Health, said they couldn’t comment on specific cases, but said they notify next of kin as the situation requires.
Ever since the day her son died, she’s been waiting for LMPD to close its investigation so she can retrieve his possessions. She had no idea until contacted by a reporter that the case has been closed since August 2018.
Jefferson County Commonwealth’s Attorney Tom Wine had decided not to press charges against the officers who shot Billy Ray Riggs and the other man. But no one told Tammy.
Listen to her story in the player above.