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Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear on Louisville bank gunman: ‘This person murdered my friend’


By Eric Bradner, CNN

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said Wednesday he “can’t imagine” what the family of the man who killed five people, including a friend of the governor, in Louisville on Monday is feeling.

Beshear’s comments, made during an emotional interview with CNN’s Kaitlan Collins which was his first since the mass shooting, came after the 911 call placed by the gunman’s mother was released.

“This person murdered my friend. But still, I can’t imagine what his parents must be feeling right now,” Beshear said.

The call by the mother of the gunman, 25-year-old Old National Bank employee Connor Sturgeon, was among a number of 911 calls released to the public Wednesday detailing the panic and fear during the mass shooting that left five dead and three hospitalized.

Relaying details from her son’s roommate, she said her son “apparently left a note” and expressed her shock and confusion.

“My son might be (redacted) has a gun and heading to the Old National on Main Street here in Louisville,” she said in the call. “This is his mother. I’m so sorry, I’m getting details secondhand. I’m learning about it now. Oh my Lord.”

In the interview with CNN, Beshear discussed his friend Tommy Elliott, a bank executive who was among the victims of Monday’s shooting. He said he wanted his friend to be remembered as a loving father and husband.

“Man, he had a great smile. His eyes lit up. Loved life. Was always into something. Trying to make the city a better place, he was just always into something,” he said.

Elliott, the bank’s senior vice president, had chaired Beshear’s 2019 inaugural committee and was a well-known figure in Kentucky Democratic politics.

“He was trying to plan for me for when I’m done being governor, which was something that I hoped we could eventually plan for together,” Beshear said. “An amazing human being, a loving dad.”

Beshear said he was the one who called Elliott’s wife to inform her that her husband had been killed.

“She deserved to know,” he said.

Beshear explained that he’d gone to Old National Bank “immediately” after learning — while in the governor’s office in Frankfort — that the mass shooting had occurred at the bank where his friend worked — and where the governor is a customer.

“I knew it would be hours before others could call her. And I thought she deserved to know, and we’re close right now to where I made that call,” he said.

“I’ve been governor during this pandemic, I’ve been governor during tornadoes and floods and -45 degree windchills and everything else. And we’ve lost a lot of people during those,” he said. “But calling your friend’s wife who is also your friend to tell her that her husband is gone is among the hardest things I’ve ever done.”

Beshear on gun laws

Beshear, a Democrat, advocated for “red flag” laws, but was careful to say he doesn’t “want to give anybody false hope” that new gun control measures will be enacted in a state where Republicans control the legislature.

He did not say whether he would seek to enact new gun restrictions as Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee has when he recently signed an executive order aimed at strengthening background checks after the elementary school shooting in Nashville last month.

Lee, a Republican, has also urged the GOP-controlled legislature to pass the equivalent of a “red flag” law, which would allow courts to temporarily seize firearms from anyone believed to be a danger to themselves or others.

Beshear said he has not yet read Lee’s executive order, but said that because red flag laws involve courts, “it ensures that everybody’s rights are protected, that evidence is heard. It has every check on it that we could ask for.”

“At least it lets us stop that next individual — at least when we know — before they murder people,” he said. “And, listen, I know people will say that wouldn’t have stopped this situation. And it probably wouldn’t have. Maybe it will the next one. I don’t want another family to go through this.”

Beshear, who has long advocated for a red flag law in Kentucky, did not say whether he believes one will now be politically viable.

“We’ll certainly have those conversations,” he said. “I don’t want to give anybody false hope, but I’m going to continue — maybe I can share even my perspective on what it’s like having a friend murdered.”

In a signal of Kentucky’s pro-gun rights political leanings, state lawmakers this year approved a measure that declares the state a Second Amendment sanctuary and forbids local law enforcement officers from enforcing federal firearms restrictions. The bill became law without Beshear’s signature.

However, a judge struck down a similar law in Missouri, and Beshear said he believes Kentucky’s law is unconstitutional because state law can’t trump federal law — and that it would be struck down if challenged in court.

Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg in recent days has called for Kentucky lawmakers to allow the city more autonomy to enact gun restrictions within its limits. But such a request would likely face stiff opposition in Frankfort, where Republicans have supermajorities in the House and Senate.

“Louisville is hurting, we need to listen to what they propose. It doesn’t mean that ultimately people go forward with it or not, but to at least have a conversation and not yell at each other,” Beshear said.

Beshear also said Kentucky must confront mental health challenges, and encouraged people to seek help. He touted the state’s 2022 launch of the 988 suicide and crisis hotline.

“We’ve also got to break down the stigma. It’s OK to not be OK. I’m not OK right now. And a lot of us aren’t going to be OK for a while,” Beshear said.

“When we talk about mental health, we always try to talk about that last moment or this individual,” he said. “We’ve got to start in our everyday lives. We’ve got to start making sure that people are getting help as they’re dealing with things long before it reaches this point, because we always try to rewind time and figure out when we could have stepped in.”

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