LMPD :: Louisville Metro Police Department

Constable in shopper shooting says Walmart security asked his help

Whitlock: 'I'm not a loose cannon'


Jefferson County Constable David Whitlock said he was leaving a Walmart parking lot last week, taking home frozen foods and milk, when he got a call that security inside the store needed help with a female shoplifting suspect.

"They asked me to assist them," Whitlock said during a phone interview Monday. "When I was getting ready to leave the parking lot is when all hell broke loose."

Whitlock shot Tammie Ortiz outside of the store on Raggard Road in southwest Jefferson County last Wednesday. Store security alleged Ortiz had shoplifted and alerted Whitlock.

Whitlock told Louisville Metro Police, which is investigating the incident, that Ortiz ran over his foot with her car, prompting him to fire his weapon, wounding her in the arm and face.

But Maury Kommor, the attorney representing Ortiz, said his client was not shoplifting and Whitlock did not identify himself as he approached and attempted to grab her shopping bags and purse. Kommor said Ortiz believed she was being mugged.

Whitlock said Monday that he could not discuss the case because it is under investigation by the police department's public integrity unit. But Whitlock did provide some details, including that he had been shopping that afternoon and was not working at the Walmart where he said he works contract security seasonally.

"People who know me know I"m not a loose cannon," Whitlock said. "I go out there and do a lot with the community. People were surprised that I shot somebody. I'm always trying to help the community."

Whitlock said he has worked part-time while off-duty for the store, mostly during the holidays and has done so for four years. But he said he frequently shops there and that's why security knew who he was.

He said he'd shopped and was on his way home when he got a call on his cell phone rang from security personnel in the store, who told them a lady was fighting them and they needed his help quickly.

Whitlock said he did not make it into the store though and never saw Ortiz fighting with anyone. He said he confronted her in the parking lot, where the shots were eventually fired.

Whitlock acknowledges that he did not know who the woman was or whether she had a criminal record when the incident took place.

He said he has since learned that Ortiz does have a criminal record. Jefferson court records indicate that Ortiz has been arrested on several occasions for crimes ranging from shoplifting to drug possession to prostitution.

Kommor said many of those charges were dismissed and are not relevant to what happened at the Walmart last week.

"This cowboy shot an unarmed woman in the face for shoplifting," Kommor said. "He didn't know if she was Bonnie from Bonnie and Clyde or Sister Teresa, he just shot her."

Over the past week, Whitlock said he has been subjected to much criticism but has also gotten lots of support from the community.

He said his foot is sore and he continues to "hobble around" but he will heal from his injury. "Nov. 2 was a life changing experience for me and my family," Whitlock said.

In the week since the shooting, message boards and online chats have been filled with comments about concerns over Whitlock's training as a constable - something Whitlock said upsets him and is unwarranted.

Whitlock was first sworn in as a constable in 2007 and was re-elected last year.

Constables are not required to undergo any special training in order to hold their position. But Whitlock said he has taken 122 hours of training, including in firearms, use of deadly force, citation writing and officer survival through the Kentucky Constables Association.

"We are not required by law to take training, but I do take training," Whitlock said. "At least I've made an effort."

Additionally, he has registered for four classes through the state's Department of Criminal Justice Training. The department would not provide information on whether Whitlock completed those classes, which included a 40-hour course in basic officer skills.

Mark Handy, a deputy Jefferson County sheriff, who was in that 2008 class with Whitlock said it included firearms recertification and driving skills. But Whitlock didn't get to the driving section because he failed the shooting portion and was sent home, Handy said. The certification included shooting at targets from various positions and distances in a set amount of time.

"He flunked shooting," Handy said. "I was there. I thought it was an embarrassment."

Whitlock acknowledged that he failed the course, but said it was because he had a neck injury that prevented him from doing one of the required maneuvers.

Whitlock said while there has been criticism of his tactics in the past, he has continued to press on with his duties as a constable because it benefits the community.

Whitlock said he spends about 20 to 25 hours a week acting as constable, which mostly involved writing citations for illegal parking in a fire lane or handicapped parking spot. He said he also patrols to make sure addresses are visible on buildings as required by law.

He said he works several off-duty security jobs part-time, during which he also issues citations.