Family of Louisville gunman allows his brain to be studied for CTE

Apr 14, 2023, 10:25 AM

Mourners gather at the Muhammad Ali Center during a vigil for the victims of Monday's shooting in L...

Mourners gather at the Muhammad Ali Center during a vigil for the victims of Monday's shooting in Louisville, Ky., Wednesday, April 12, 2023. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

(AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

(CNN) — The family of Connor Sturgeon — who was killed after he fatally shot five people Monday morning at the Old National Bank in Louisville, Kentucky — plans to have his brain tested for chronic traumatic encephalopathy, commonly known as CTE, his father and a spokesperson for the family told CNN on Thursday.

“Yes, Connor is being tested for CTE. Probably will take a while to get results,” Todd Sturgeon, Connor Sturgeon’s father, texted to CNN.

Pete Palmer, a family friend who is speaking for the Sturgeons, said the family and the state medical examiner are looking to have Connor Sturgeon’s brain tested.

The medical examiner’s office has completed most of its tests, and the process of testing for CTE will now begin, Palmer said.

CNN has reached out to the Kentucky state medical examiner for further information.

CTE, a neurodegenerative brain disease, can be found in people who have been exposed to repeated head trauma. Studies have found that repetitive hits to the head — even without concussion — can result in CTE.

Sturgeon’s family thinks he had three significant concussions — two as an eighth-grade football player and one in basketball as a high school freshman, according to Palmer.

The disease, which can only be diagnosed with an autopsy and neuropathological exam, is pathologically marked by a buildup of tau protein in the brain that can disable neuropathways and lead to a variety of symptoms including memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, aggression, depression, anxiety, impulse control issues and sometimes suicidal behavior.

However, experts note that symptoms like these may not necessarily be caused by CTE; they could be caused by head injuries themselves — or by something completely unrelated.

Police have not released information about a motive in the shooting.

The testing disclosure comes as more families are talking about their loved ones who were killed.

The daughter of Juliana Farmer, one of the five who were killed, said Wednesday night her mother had just moved to Louisville two weeks prior for a new job at the bank.

“This monster took away my mother, and I’m hurt because my mother moved here to help me, a single mom with four kids. I only got two weeks with her here in Louisville … a city she knew nothing about,” Alia Chambers told CNN. “I’m heartbroken. I hated him. I hated him but I forgive him because my mama is in a better place.”

Farmer moved to Louisville from Henderson, Kentucky, and was thrilled to begin her role with Old National Bank as a loan officer.

“My mom went from working at 19 years old at Kmart to sitting with executives at a bank. I’m gonna fulfill my mama’s dream. Either I’m going back to nursing school or I’m gonna ask them, can I take over her position at that bank,” she said. “She was so excited about that job. She was happy.”

Farmer had three adult children and four grandsons, Chambers said.

The day before she was killed, she found out her son, J’Yeon Chambers, was expecting a baby girl, he told CNN. The baby is due in September, the same month his mother was born.

“And so it’s just crazy how she gets taken the day after we reveal that we’re having the baby. So my child is going to be her basically all over again,” her son said. “She gave us the name that she always wanted a girl to be named and we’re going to stick with it.”

The new details come as CNN has learned more about the victims and wounded in Monday’s workplace mass shooting, including the survival of a woman who was seated between two people who were killed.

Sturgeon, a 25-year-old Old National Bank employee, opened fire with an AR-15-style rifle in the bank about a half-hour before it was to open to the public, killing five colleagues before he was fatally shot by a responding officer. Farmer, Joshua Barrick, Tommy Elliott, Deana Eckert and James Tutt were shot and killed, police said.

Of the eight people who were wounded, a 26-year-old police officer remains in critical condition after being shot in the head, requiring brain surgery.

Woman who was seated between two victims released from hospital

One woman who was shot but survived was seated in a conference room between Farmer and Elliott when the attack began, according to the father of her children, Rex Minrath.

Dana Mitchell, an employee at the bank, has returned home from the hospital and is recovering, Minrath told CNN in a phone interview Thursday. She is expected to have surgery in the coming weeks to remove “the rest of the bullet,” he said.

“Dana was in the conference room between Tommy and Juliana. She sat between those two,” Minrath told CNN. “And then when they hit the ground, they were all on the ground together. She is fortunate because both of them weren’t so lucky.”

Mitchell’s son, Ross Minrath, posted a series of images and updates about his mother’s condition on his Facebook page this week.

“After positive results from blood work and her being an all around badass, my Mom was released from the hospital today,” he wrote on Tuesday night. “She is very sore but doing well. Her phone has been at the bank and hopes to start reaching out herself tomorrow.”

In one Facebook post, he said the gunshot bruised her lung and that doctors were able to clean the wound on her back. His mother, he added, “is the toughest I’ve ever known.”

He thanked those who had reached out to the family with well wishes and asked for people to continue to send prayers for his mother.

In addition, the first person who was shot inside the bank survived, a city official told CNN. In the shooter’s Instagram livestream of the attack, which has since been taken down, the female bank worker said “good morning” before the gunman warned her, “You need to get out of here,” according to an official familiar with the video.

The woman had her back to the gunman as he struggled to get the safety off and load his AR-15-style weapon properly. He then shot her in the back, an official previously told CNN.

Governor says he’s ’empty’ after friend’s death

At a vigil Wednesday evening, scores of residents and officials gathered to mourn publicly the employees gunned down at their workplace by a coworker.

“It’s important that we take time to acknowledge those losses and what they mean for us as people and as a community,” Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg said during the vigil at the Muhammad Ali Center Plaza. “So, that later we can gather our energies and focus on preventing these tragedies.”

Greenberg noted the heartbreaking impacts of gun violence in his city beyond Monday’s carnage, which unfolded less than a mile from where the vigil was held Wednesday.

“There will be a time to act. To take steps in honor of those we’ve lost and to channel our grief and pain into meaningful action. That day is coming,” the mayor continued. “Today is to mourn, to lean on each other and support each other.”

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said at the vigil that Elliott, a senior vice president at the bank, was one of his closest friends.

“I’ll admit that while I am not angry, I am empty. And I’m sad. And I just keep thinking that maybe we’ll wake up,” Beshear said, his voice breaking.

“What I know is, I just wish I’d taken an extra moment, made an extra call, tell him how much I care about him. And I know we are all feeling the same. But I also know they hear us now. And that they feel our love,” Beshear said.

Shooter’s mother called 911 minutes after massacre began

Louisville police on Wednesday released a series of 911 calls showing the fear and panic both inside and outside the bank during the shooting early Monday morning.

In one emergency call, a woman who identified herself as an employee of a different Old National Bank branch told the dispatcher she saw the massacre happen in real time while she was on a video call with colleagues at the scene.

“How do you know you have an active shooter on site?” the operator asked.

“I just watched it. I just watched it on a Teams meeting. We were having a board meeting,” she said. “I saw somebody on the floor. We heard multiple shots and people started saying ‘Oh my God,’ and then he came into the board room.”

Another 911 call came from the gunman’s mother, who said her son was headed to the bank with a gun 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. “This is his mother. I’m so sorry, I’m getting details secondhand. I’m learning about it now. Oh my Lord.”

The woman said her son “apparently left a note” about the incident. “We don’t even own guns. I don’t know where he would have gotten a gun.”

Other calls came from a bank employee speaking in a whisper who was hiding in a closet, a man who fled the building and took shelter at a nearby dental office, and another caller who hid under a desk inside the building.

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Family of Louisville gunman allows his brain to be studied for CTE