Louisville officer nominated for award days after pepper-balling TV crew at Breonna Taylor protests

Louisville officer nominated for award days after pepper-balling TV crew at Breonna Taylor protests
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A Louisville, Ky., police officer was nominated for an award at his department just days after he was placed on leave for firing pepper balls at a television crew covering protests against racial injustice. 

Demonstrations erupted in Louisville last year after Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman, was shot and killed by police in her home while they executed a "no-knock" warrant. 

Officer Dusten Dean was reportedly seen on camera firing nonlethal rounds at a WAVE3 news crew during the May 23 protests, some of which became violent.  

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Dean was put on leave pending and investigation into the incident on June 1. 

Days later, Dean and a pair of other officers were nominated for the department's Exceptional Merit Award for delivering "critical items" to a Special Response Team responding to the unrest in Louisville that week, according to the Courier-Journal. 

Dean and the other officers "devoted extra time away from their families while operating on very little sleep, and working in high temperatures, so the Special Response Team, the Louisville Metro Police Department and the City of Louisville as a whole could succeed," Lt. Chris Aebersold wrote in a nominating letter, the newspaper reported. 

Aebersold said the special response team was "attempting to stop destructive subjects from causing more damage and destruction in the city." 

The Louisville Metro Police Department told the newspaper this week that Dean has not received the award and is still on administrative reassignment, pending an investigation.

"I'm shocked and disheartened to hear he was commended for a job well done after he so publicly failed to protect us," said Kaitlin Rust, one of the journalists hit by the pepper balls Dean fired. 

The Hill has reached out to the Louisville Metro Police Department for comment.