LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - A grand jury declined on Wednesday to indict the man who fatally stabbed a teenage boy aboard a TARC bus March 16. The cases pending against Anthony R. Allen, 44, were dismissed in District Court Wednesday afternoon, and he was set free.
The victim, 14-year-old Me'Quale Offutt, died of his injuries two days after the stabbing.
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Allen stabbed Offutt three times during an altercation early on the morning of March 16 aboard a TARC bus near 28th Street and West Broadway in Louisville's Parkland neighborhood. Offutt suffered injuries to his heart and was placed in a medically-induced coma to help his heart heal, but he died of his injuries on March 18.
A 13-year-old girl who was among several teens accompanying Offutt on the bus also was stabbed during the altercation. She was treated at a hospital for her injuries and later released.
According to LMPD Chief Steve Conrad, six witnesses were interviewed about the stabbing: four people who were on the bus when the incident happened, including the girl who survived being stabbed; the bus driver and Anthony Allen.
"The four people on the bus made statements that were similar in nature," Conrad said during a Wednesday afternoon news conference. "The consensus of the statements were that Mr. Allen was the aggressor, and that he had started the fight."
"The probable cause that led to Mr. Allen being charged [with assault and tampering with evidence] the night of the incident were the statements from the five witnesses that Mr. Allen was in a rage," Conrad said. "All of the witnesses said that he was an aggressor, and Mr. Allen himself indicated that he was involved in the incident."
Then, the day after the stabbings, police watched surveillance video from the TARC bus. It told a different story.
"After viewing the video," Conrad said, "it was determined that the video and audio evidence were not consistent with the information -- I should say, not entirely consistent with the information -- provided by the witnesses during their account of the incident."
Homicide investigators met with Commonwealth Attorney Thomas Wine on Friday, March 21 to discuss the investigation and watch the surveillance video together.
"The video from that bus, quite frankly, is the true story," Wine said. "No matter what human memories may be, the video captured exactly what happened on those early morning hours of March 16th."
The approximately nine-minute video shows Allen arguing with the bus driver upon boarding the bus and then engaging the teens verbally as they get on the bus two blocks after Allen boards. The confrontation turns physical about six minutes into the video with the girl who ended up getting stabbed walking toward Allen and punching him in the eye. Allen appeared in court the following day and in his mugshot with a black eye.
Eventually, the teens are seen approaching Allen as he retreats, and they appear to beat him. A girl can be heard yelling, "He stabbed me!" repeatedly, and then Offutt collapses on the floor.
The driver of the bus, who at this point in the video has stopped the vehicle, is seen in front of Allen at the front door of the bus. She either pushes Allen out or he falls out, landing on a sidewalk on his back. He stands up and leaves the scene on foot. Allen was arrested later that morning.
After watching the video, "we advised LMPD that we felt that we should make a presentation to the grand jury as soon as possible," Wine said.
The grand jury reviewed the case Wednesday morning, and, after asking police and lead prosecutor Erin McKenzie questions, deliberated, returning with the decision not to indict Allen on any of the charges he faced: murder, assault and tampering with evidence. The presentment would have allowed jurors to indict on charges of manslaughter or reckless homicide, but they declined, Wine said.
"If you watch the video, it'sclear that there is a retreat on Mr. Allen's part," McKenzie said. "It is clear that thejuveniles initiate the physical altercation. When you apply (Kentucky's "Castle" or self-defense law) to that, that is what you get."
"There are going to be people in our community who are not going to agree with the grand jury's decision," Conrad said, "but it's important to remind everyone that this is the way the criminal justice system works in our country. The law does allow the use of force, including the use of deadly force, to protect your life."
Louisville Metro police said other recent TARC attacks and Saturday's incidents of roving teen violence in downtown Louisville are related Offutt's stabbing death. An impromptu memorial was held for Offutt Saturday at Waterfront Park.
"People were coming to the park to remember their friend. Somewhere, things went bad," said LMPD Chief Steve Conrad Tuesday.
Community activist Christopher 2X said Offutt's memorial was incident-free and that Offutt's family had nothing to do with the violent attacks on Saturday.
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