An apparent road rage incident Feb. 26 is what ultimately resulted in one man's death, another man's life forever altered and part of the community first in mourning, now mired in outrage.
A Warren County grand jury Wednesday did not find sufficient evidence to charge an off-duty court security officer with any crime in the shooting that ended the life of Brandon Bradshaw, 27, a well-known Bowling Green youth theater director.
Warren County Sheriff’s Office court security officer Thomas Brown shot Bradshaw three times Feb. 26 in the parking lot of Michelle’s Consignment Boutique at 1135 U.S. 31-W By-Pass. Bradshaw died March 2 at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville.
In a news conference Wednesday at the Warren County Justice Center, Warren County Commonwealth's Attorney Chris Cohron said the grand jury heard more than eight hours of testimony Tuesday before reaching a decision Wednesday morning. The grand jury returned a no true bill on the charges of reckless homicide or second-degree manslaughter, according to Warren Circuit Court records.
"As much as a relief yesterday was for the Brown family, they still understand that another person has lost their life," said Brown's attorney, Alan Simpson. "They are still keeping the Bradshaw family in their prayers. It's a true tragedy that will affect both of the families forever."
Bradshaw's family and friends were in disbelief after the grand jury decision was announced.
"I'm concerned about my own safety now," said Bradshaw's sister Amanda Winn, who was standing outside the justice center Wednesday awaiting news about the grand jury decision. "I teach preschool, and we teach them to trust law enforcement. I don't feel as safe as I used to in our community."
The altercation began when both men were traveling south on U.S. 31-W By-Pass. Witnesses stated that Brown's and Bradshaw's vehicles were jockeying back and forth, pulling up next to each other and changing lanes south of 10th Avenue, Cohron said. As both vehicles crossed 10th Avenue, Bradshaw entered the parking lot of Enterprise Rent-A-Car at 1125 U.S. 31-W By-Pass, and Brown was seen pulling in shortly after at Michelle's Consignment Boutique at 1135 U.S. 31-W By-Pass.
Testimony and evidence show that Bradshaw then pulled in behind Brown in the parking lot of Michelle's Consignment Boutique. Brown stepped out of his vehicle – with his gun concealed – and approached Bradshaw's driver's side wearing "plain clothes and in no way in any performance of any law enforcement duties," Cohron said.
"There was a verbal altercation between the two of them," Cohron said. "At some point in time, Brandon Bradshaw during the altercation attempted to exit the vehicle. Mr. Brown closed the door back on Mr. Bradshaw's truck, and then eyewitness testimony confirmed that at that point in time, Brandon Bradshaw pulled a .40 caliber Smith & Wesson gun, brandished that towards Mr. Brown. At that point in time, Mr. Brown pulled a weapon, discharging that weapon three times, striking Mr. Bradshaw ... ."
Cohron is not aware of any relationship between the witness, who provided information about Bradshaw brandishing a weapon, and Bradshaw or Brown. After Brown fired three shots at Bradshaw, Brown pulled out his badge.
"To the best of our knowledge, the witness statements that observed the incident did not see Mr. Brown pull a badge until after the shooting occurred," Cohron said. Bradshaw's family and friends remain puzzled as to why Brown presented his badge at all if he was off-duty during the incident.
"I am very mad still," said Bradshaw's best friend and Cord of 3 bandmate, Randall Erskine. "I don't know how to explain how I feel – I keep thinking 'what would Brandon do if it was me.'"
Cohron said at the news conference that both Brown and Bradshaw were treated like any other citizen and that no preferential treatment was given to Brown due to his employment as court security officer at the justice center.
Cohron lists Kentucky's self-defense statutes as having played a factor in this case.
"Kentucky's self-protection law is an absolute law – one of the most stringent self-protection statutes, including a no retreat clause that puts some absolutes in what can be done on these type cases," Cohron said. "No retreat is that, if deadly physical force is presented to someone, they're allowed to use deadly physical force in response to that, and that person also has no duty to retreat or run if deadly physical force is used against them."
Cohron said he did not know Brown, and that he consulted with Bradshaw's father and wife shortly after the incident to address any possible concerns about Cohron prosecuting the case.
"If they had any concerns, I would be more than happy to have a special prosecutor brought in to review the investigation, and if necessary, present the case to the Warren County grand jury," he said.
Cohron declined to comment on whether Bradshaw had any drugs or alcohol in his system during the incident, and said that he's not aware of Brown being tested for drugs and alcohol.
"We're not letting it rest. Brandon will not be forgotten," said Bradshaw's mother Jennifer Epley, moments after hearing the grand jury decision. "I have to keep fighting. What would they do if it was their son? My war is just beginning."