Louisville, KY – A man wearing a “Freedom” t-shirt opened fire on diners eating on the patio of a sports bar in Louisville on Friday night and killed three people.
Social media posts that claimed the gunman was wearing a t-shirt that read “Justice for Breonna Taylor” quickly went viral and ignited outrage.
Those same posts claimed the owner of the bar was a retired law enforcement officer.
Both claims false, The Police Tribune learned on Monday morning.
The incident occurred just before 11:15 p.m. on Sept. 18 when an armed man approached the patio area outside Bungalow Joe’s Bar and Grill in the 7800-block of Beulah Church Road in Louisville, WDRB reported.
The man opened fire on the patrons seated on the patio and fatally shot three men at point-blank range.
The owner of Bungalow Joes, Joe Bishop, told The Police Tribune that the gunman was wearing a t-shirt that featured a combined picture of Muhammad Ali and Colin Kaepernick with the word “Freedom” on it.
“The guy was NOT wearing a Breonna Taylor t-shirt. It was a t-shirt with Muhammad Ali and Colin Kaepernick’s faces put together. The shirt said ‘Freedom,” Bishop told The Police Tribune.
“Nobody had ever seen this guy before,” he told WDRB. “It was a totally random act.”
Bishop told The Police Tribune that the first person who was shot was a black man.
“Social media is full of people saying this happened and that happened and wanted to get political with it; there was nothing political about what happened,” the restaurant owner said.
Bishop also told The Police Tribune that reports he is a retired law enforcement officer were untrue.
He said that he purchased the business initially with a friend who was a retired law enforcement officer, but he bought his partner out of the business year ago.
The restaurant owner expressed concerned for the safety of his family and staff after he was misidentified as a retired cop, given the current anti-police environment.
Police responded to the scene of the shootings at about 11:30 p.m.
Bishop told WDRB that he had just gone to bed when he got a call about the shootings at his restaurant.
He said that by the time he got to his restaurant, an ambulance had already transported one of the shooting victims to the hospital and two others, already pronounced dead, were laying on the patio’s pavement.
Bishop said that the gunman did not say anything to anyone before he opened fire, WDRB reported.
Louisville Metropolitan Police Spokeswoman Alicia Smiley said the three victims had “sustained varying gunshot wounds,” the Courier-Journal reported.
The Jefferson County Coroner’s Office said that 26-year-old Toreon Jermaine Hudson and 48-year-old William Scott Smallwood were pronounced dead at the scene, WDRB reported.
The third victim, 24-year-old Steven Matthew Head, was pronounced dead at University Hospital.
Police apprehended the suspect a short time later after they found him crawling in the bushes in a ditch across the street from the shooting scene, WDRB reported.
Officials said 33-year-old Michael E. Rhynes Jr. was wearing clothes that matched what the gunman caught on video was wearing.
Bishop told The Police Tribune that Rhynes had been to two other bars before he ended up at Bungalow Joe’s.
He said the would-be killer got into an altercation at one of the other establishments and was asked to leave.
Bishop told The Police Tribune that witnesses reported seeing Rhynes having an altercation with a woman in the parking lot after he left.
Then he got into the woman’s car and they drove off, he said.
Bishop told The Police Tribune that the woman dropped Rhynes off at Bungalow Joe’s.
Police said Rhynes was in possession of a loaded handgun that held rounds matching the shell casings found at the shooting scene, WDRB reported.
Online records showed that Rhynes was arrested and booked into Louisville Metro Corrections.
He was scheduled to be arraigned on Monday and his bond was set at $2 million, WDRB reported.
Rhynes is facing three counts of murder.
“Why? Why?” Bishop asked. “I mean, I could understand if there was an altercation, but why?”
One of the victims was the fiancé of the restaurant’s manager.
“One of the guys who was shot was Scott, my manager’s fiancé, and my manager was sitting there and watched his head get blown off,” Bishop told The Police Tribune.
He said Monday was another victim’s birthday.
“Toreon – today was his birthday – he was a customer and a fantastic young man,” Bishop said.
He told The Police Tribune that he planned to celebrate his slain friend’s birthday with his grieving family.
Bishop said the false narrative circulating on social media was ginning up unrest that the already beleaguered city doesn’t need.
I read the assailant wore a #JusticeforBreonna shirt when he murdered 1 black man & 2 white men. Bungalow Joe’s was known to have cops as patrons, so Michael Rhynes Jr thought he would enact revenge for her. Violence will beget more violence but is never the way to find justice. pic.twitter.com/5tq4PnPU1x
— Mindful_Tiger (@SpectralRoar) September 21, 2020
“[Rhynes] was former military, lived nearby, wasn’t a protester,” he told The Police Tribune. “This wasn’t targeted. It had nothing to do with police.”
The restaurant owner also said the false narrative about him being a police officer had people leaving hateful messages for him.