Nickolas Wilt was shot in the head on his fourth shift as a Louisville police officer
A Louisville police officer who was sworn in less than two weeks ago is in critical condition after stopping a gunman who opened fire at a downtown bank on Monday.
Nickolas Wilt was on his fourth shift as a police officer when his department got the call that a gunman had opened fire.
It was 8:38 a.m. local time on the Monday after Easter, and downtown Louisville was bustling with morning commuters. Wilt and his field training officer, Cory Galloway, responded to the scene within three minutes, according to interim Police Chief Jacquelyn Gwinn-Villaroel.
She added that Wilt "did not hesitate." He ran head-first towards the shooter as the man turned his weapon, an assault rifle, in his direction. The suspect, a 25-year-old bank employee who livestreamed the violence, was killed by Galloway.
But Wilt was struck in the head in the process. He was among the nine people hospitalized after the shooting, and he remains sedated and in critical condition after undergoing brain surgery.
Mayor Craig Greenberg said a group of rookie officers from Wilt's academy cohort had paid him a visit. The 26-year-old graduated from the police academy on Mar. 31.
"I just swore him in," Gwinn-Villaroel said during a press conference. "His family was there to witness his journey to become a police officer."
Prior to joining the police force, Wilt worked as an emergency medical technician, an emergency dispatcher and as a local firefighter. He is still employed with Baptist Health on an "as-needed basis," according to a statement from the hospital.
A statement on his LinkedIn page offers insight into his service mindset: "The day you plant the seed is not the day you eat the fruit," he wrote in the spot where a career biography would normally go.
Two other officers were admitted to the hospital with injuries, including Galloway, who was shot in the elbow.
The five deceased victims have been identified as Joshua Barrick, Deana Eckert, Tommy Elliott, Juliana Farmer and James Tutt.
Three victims who were hospitalized are in stable condition as of Tuesday morning and one is in fair condition. Another four have been discharged. The hospital used more than 170 units of blood to treat the victims, prompting a representative from the Red Cross to call for more donations during a press conference on Tuesday.
Gwinn-Villaroel said there could've been more victims, had Wilt and the officer not "taken it upon themselves to not wait to assess everything but just went in to assess the threat so that more lives would not be lost."
"I asked my officers when I addressed them today: 'If we don't do it, who will?' " she added. "Evil cannot prevail and try to take over our city."
Just a few blocks away from Old National Bank, a man was killed and a woman was hospitalized on Monday when a shooter opened fire on a community college campus. The two incidents were completely unrelated, officials said.
More than 11,600 people have lost their lives to gun violence in the U.S. since the start of 2023, according to the Gun Violence Archive. One in 6 people say they have personally witnessed a shooting in the U.S..
As media coverage of gun violence seems stuck in an endless loop, narratives about heroic acts have taken on new prominence.
Officers Rex Engelbert and Michael Collazo said luck and training helped them subdue a shooter at a Nashville Christian school last month.
In California, a 26-year-old software engineer, Brandon Tsay, wrestled a shooter to the ground at a dance hall in Monterey Park without knowing the gunman had just killed 11 people nearby.
An Army veteran, Richard M. Fierro, subdued the attacker at Club Q in Colorado Springs last November.
When it comes to Wilt's actions, it may be a while until the public hears the full story.
Like the other patients who sustained gunshot wounds, he has a long road of recovery ahead, said Dr. Jason Smith, University of Louisville Health Chief Medical Officer.
"If we can get through 24 hours, then we'll get them through another 24 hours," he said. "We'll keep doing that until they're out of the hospital."
Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.