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Shooting investigation will take weeks

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Details of how Aukerman died remain under investigation

By Lisa King

The yellow tape has been taken down, and all that’s left at 139 Gray Hill Court in Shelbyville to remind passersby that a man died there in a shootout with police is a bullet-riddled front door and window.

Police investigators say it’s too soon to say what really happened the night that Del Aukerman, 57, opened fire on police and was shot to death when they returned fire.

Investigators have declined to release reports about the final moments of the standoff, including the autopsy that would stipulate how many times Aukerman fired his weapon, how many times he was struck by bullets and by what sort of weapons were used. They cite an open and ongoing investigation.

“Anytime we have an officer-involved shooting, the investigation takes several weeks to complete,” Kentucky State Police Spokesperson Kendra Wilson said. “That’s our standard. We make sure we have everything covered, and we have teams that come in and do investigations.”

The 7-hour standoff on Feb. 25 began at about 7:30 p.m. after Shelbyville Police tried to serve Aukerman with an Oldham County warrant for misdemeanor charges, and he met officers at the door with what officers termed “a long gun” and then barricaded himself inside.

At 2 p.m., after several hours of fruitless negotiating by phone, police made the decision to go in after Aukerman, and that’s when he started shooting, Wilson said.

She did not elaborate on the method the police used to try to gain entry into the house, saying that information, and all other details of what happened that night, including how many police officers and other personnel were at the scene, will not be made public until the investigation is concluded.

“We will have all of that determined by the end of the investigation,” she said.

Kentucky State Police Lt. Todd Kidd, who is heading up the investigation, said he could not speculate on a time frame for the conclusion of the investigation.

“That would be premature for me to say right now; I can’t give you a hard-and-fast date on that – it would be pure guesswork on my part,” he said. 

“We’re less than a week into investigating it, and this is something that will take several weeks anyway. We’re still in the process of interviewing witnesses and collecting evidence.”

The investigation also includes the autopsy results, which could provide some insight into why Aukerman acted as he did.

Shelby County Deputy Coroner Ittin Russell, who pronounced Aukerman dead at the scene, said those results could come in portions.

“Usually toxicology takes two or three weeks, but with the entire autopsy, it will probably be three to six weeks,” he said.

He described the scenario that leads up to the autopsy and how investigators decide what types of forensic tests should be a part of process.

“When we do a tox for an autopsy, we talk about the whole scene, and we all [coroner, police and other personnel] decide what kind of toxicology to do,” he said.

If the deceased person were to have a history of using specific drugs, for example, that could be a factor, he said.

“A lot of times, there are certain drugs [suspected to be involved], so we have to order certain tests,” Russell said.

He said that in Aukerman’s case, he was not aware of any drug abuse.

Russell had confirmed that Aukerman’s death was caused by gunshot wound, but other details, such as how many times he was shot, will not be released until the investigation is complete.

Wilson said that compiling evidence, interviewing witnesses and gathering that type of material information is just the first phase of the investigation.

Once that’s done, police would turn that information over to the office of Commonwealth Attorney Laura Donnell for review, much like the case in 2011, when Shelbyville Police officers shot and killed teenager Trey Williams.

“Once we complete our investigation, even if it’s determined that it was a justified action that was taken, we still talk with prosecutors and say, ‘Here’s our investigation, and here’s our case,’” she said. “If they feel the need to take this before a grand jury, then they do. We don’t hide anything from prosecutors or from the public.  We always work in cooperation with prosecutors.

“It’s up to them to decide if they think there is an issue. At this point, it is not foreseen that there’s anything [in the Aukerman case] that was not followed by policy. Once our investigation is over, then you all [media] will have access to all of it.”