WILLIAMSTOWN, Ky. — While the family of Gary Bressler Sr. plans a funeral for the 48-year-old father of six, they are openly skeptical about the lack of information available from Kentucky State Police about his death.
"I feel like the Kentucky State troopers are getting away with a whole lot of stuff because they have no accountability," Gary Bressler Jr. said.
Based on information provided by KSP, troopers from Post 6 in Dry Ridge responded to a 911 call on Chipman Ridge Road in Williamstown Nov. 3 when a fatal, trooper-involved shooting around 1:45 a.m. left one man dead. The agency is not identifying the troopers who were involved, the nature of the 911 call, the identity of the person they refer to as a “suspect” who died in this case or any additional information, despite multiple inquiries by WCPO 9 News.
The Bressler family said Gary Bressler Sr. called 911 himself, although they are not sure what he said on the phone. His son believes he was experiencing a mental breakdown.
“I think he really just needed help,” Bressler Jr. said. “It was a cry for help.”
After calling 911, Bressler walked around the family’s front yard holding a samurai sword, according to his wife, Heather. She and three of the couple’s children were also in the front yard when, Heather said, two KSP troopers arrived and parked their vehicles about 45 to 50 feet away from Bressler, who was standing near the end of the driveway.
Based on the family’s account, the troopers — who were positioned behind their cars — asked Bressler to drop the weapon once and immediately started firing shots. The family says Bressler was not charging or moving toward the troopers at the time.
“My little brothers are 11 years old. My little sister is 14 years old. They watched it all happen…My dad didn’t have a fighting chance,” Bressler Jr. said. “[The troopers] didn’t give him a shot — didn’t give him time to comply.”
Bressler Jr. said he was extremely close with his father. Out of habit, he said, he went to call Bressler when he had a question while working in his garage recently.
“I pulled my phone out and realized I can’t call him,” he said. “Dad’s gone. I can’t call him.”
Looking back on childhood memories and experiences he shared with his father, Bressler Jr. acknowledged just how similar he is to the man he was named after.
“If Dad was outside doing something, I was with him,” Bressler Jr. said. “Me and my dad were like two peas in a pod. Everything that I do today is probably because of my dad. I’m a mechanic because my dad put that interest in me. I like rock and roll music because my dad instilled the music in me. I am who I am today because of my father.”
Two big areas of concern for the Bressler family are the lack of body camera footage (KSP troopers don’t wear the devices) and the fact that KSP handles its own investigations.
"Them investigating their own troopers? That’s bogus," Bressler Jr. said. "It really makes me angry to know that they do things like this."
In Kentucky, state police have jurisdiction to investigate any officer-involved shootings, including their own. The KSP Critical Incident Response Team responded to the scene in Grant County and is now handling the investigation.
"We are committed to full and fair investigations of every officer-involved shooting, including those involving the Kentucky State Police," Kerry Harvey, Kentucky’s Justice and Public Safety Cabinet Secretary, said in a statement. "We will always commit appropriate resources to see that a thorough, objective investigation is done in each and every case. We are satisfied that at present we have the right resources to continue to fulfill our commitment to thoroughly and fairly investigate every case."
KSP is an agency within the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet. A cabinet spokesperson further defended this practice by explaining that “KSP has vast knowledge and experience, as well as additional technology and resources not readily available to all local law enforcement, that further assist with these investigations.”
WCPO 9 News has filed six open-records requests with KSP for a wide range of information, including specific details related to this case, KSP use-of-force training and procedures and records on fatal use-of-force situations involving state troopers in the past decade. We are currently waiting for a response from KSP on each of these requests.
In a previous statement, KSP has said “to protect the integrity of an ongoing investigation, it is KSP standard operating procedure not to release any additional details until vital witnesses have been interviewed and pertinent facts gathered.”
The Bressler family said KSP has yet to interview any of the individuals who witnessed the trooper-involved shooting.