LMPD :: Louisville Metro Police Department

Constable indicted in shooting of alleged shoplifter


Jefferson County Constable David Whitlock has been indicted on assault and endangerment charges after shooting a woman in the parking lot of a southwestern Louisville Walmart.

Whitlock, 34, is scheduled to be arraigned Feb. 6, on charges of second-degree assault and first-degree wanton endangerment., said Leland Hulbert, a spokesman for the Jefferson County Commonwealth's Attorney's Office.

When reached by phone, Whitlock declined comment and referred questions to his attorney, Brian Butler, who said his client intends to enter a not guilty plea and has no plans to resign.

"I look forward to getting the discovery and looking into exactly what it is they say he's done wrong and the circumstances surrounding it," said Butler.

Second-degree assault is a Class C felony punishable by five to 10 years in prison; wanton endangerment charge a Class D felony punishable by one to five years.

The assistant commonwealth's attorney assigned to the case, Thomas Van De Rostyne, did not immediately return a telephone message.

In November, security officers in the Walmart on Raggard Road asked Whitlock for help because they believed a woman had shoplifted, police said. In the parking lot, Whitlock approached Tammie Ortiz, 43, in her vehicle and she tried to drive away, leading Whitlock to fire his weapon, police said. The bullets struck her arm and face, she was treated at a hospital and released.

Whitlock told police the woman drove over his foot. An attorney for Ortiz said, however, that she believed Whitlock was mugging her. She was not charged in the incident.

Whitlock was elected in 2006 as constable for a district covering the western portion of Jefferson County, and he began asserting his law enforcement powers to a greater extent than the other constables in the county. He was re-elected in 2010.

Constables are constitutional officers endowed with the powers of peace officers, but candidates are not required to be screened nor trained before or after taking office.

State Sen. Julie Denton, R-Louisville, and state Rep. Joni Jenkins, D-Shively, recently sponsored bills in the General Assembly that would seek to abolish the office state-wide. Representatives from the Kentucky Association of Chiefs of Police and the Kentucky Sheriffs Association said their organizations support abolishing the office.

Jason Rector, president of the Kentucky Constables Association, said his organization wants better access to state-sponsored training.

Whitlock sucessfully completed three classes - on media relations for supervisors, the penal code and constitutional procedure - through the state Department of Criminal Justice Training, according to information provided by the state through an open-records request.

The Walmart incident launched an investigation by the Louisville Metro Police's Public Integrity Unit, which recently gave its report to the Jefferson County Commonwealth's Attorney's Office.

In December, Whitlock filed lawsuits against Louisville Metro Government, Louisville Metro Police and others arguing that he was unfairly targeted by Metro Council measures restricting constable's uniforms and use of badges, that metro government underpaid him and other claims.

After the Walmart incident, Metro Councilman Kelly Downard, R-17, and other council members met with Louisville Metro Police Chief Robert White to express concerns about Whitlock. He said Friday he would not call for Whitlock to step down, preferring to first let the trial happen.

"I'm pleased to see that justice is taking its course and we'll all have to sit back and watch the trial and see what happens," Downard said.

Whitlock has been charged before. In 2002, he entered an Alford plea - maintaining his innocence but conceding that enough evidence existed to convict him - to theft charges after he was found possessing stolen computer and ambulance services equipment. He entered a diversion program and his record was expunged.

Meanwhile, Ortiz is still under a doctor's care and in physical therapy from her injuries, and will require more surgery, her attorney, Maury Kommor, said.

Earlier this month, Louisville Metro Police charged Ortiz with first-degree robbery after she reportedly pushed a store loss-prevention officer and threw a sweatshirt at another before fleeing in a separate incident at a Kmart on Outer Loop. Kommor said Ortiz denies the charges from the Kmart incident.