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A look back at the 1994 Lexington riot

Posted at 6:31 PM, May 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-02 20:25:32-04

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — The riot in Louisville Thursday night may bring back memories of a similar tragedy in Lexington back in 1994.

In October 1994, a police sergeant shot and killed an 18-year-old unarmed black man named Tony Sullivan. While serving three felony warrants, Lexington Sergeant Phil Vogel said his gun accidentally discharged, shooting Sullivan in the head.

An LEX 18 reporter covering the story at the time said a babysitter, who was in the home during the shooting, told a crowd of people gathered outside that Sullivan's arms were up and he was unarmed. Her claim, combined with the news that the shooter was white and the victim was black, sparked a riot. Hundreds gathered and yelled at and threatened police. Mobs formed destroying police cars and throwing rocks and bottles.

Nearly 30 years later, a similar situation happened in Louisville when police shot and killed Breonna Taylor.

Sullivan's mother, Mary Caldwell, said she is disheartened that not much has changed in the nearly three decades since her son was killed.

"Is it just the color of our skin?" Caldwell said. "We're human. I wonder when is it ever going to stop?"

Sullivan's case went to the grand jury which declined to indict Vogel.