‘You Comply or You Die’

Louisville Cop Guns Down African Immigrant Wielding a Flagpole

Thirty-five-year-old Deng Manyoun didn’t speak English—but he did swing at a Kentucky patrolman with a 7-foot pole, with its ‘Open’ flag attached. He paid with his life.

06.15.15 3:25 AM ET

He swung a flagpole at a Kentucky cop, and it cost him his life.

Deng Manyoun, a 35-year-old African immigrant who didn’t speak English, was fatally shot by a Louisville police officer Saturday after he charged at the patrolman with a 7-foot pole.

In surveillance footage released by WHAS-TV, Manyoun is seen outside a smoke shop as Officer Nathan Blanford pulls up in a squad car. The two begin arguing, and the man walks away and returns with a pole, which has a business’s red-white-and-blue “open” flag attached to it.

Manyoun—suspected of assaulting a woman moments before—charges at Blanford and wildly swings at him with the pole, which is made of two pieces and breaks in half.

Within seconds, Blanford makes the fatal decision to shoot. He fires twice at the crazed man, who falls backward, out of view of the security camera. Manyoun was rushed to the hospital and later died.

The 40-year-old officer is on administrative leave pending an investigation by the Louisville Metro Police Department.

On Sunday, Louisville activists denounced what they called a national trend of police using excessive force against people of color. They questioned why Blanford didn’t first try to subdue Manyoun with a Taser, mace, or baton.

Manyoun didn’t speak English, according to neighbors and the police chief.

Louisville Metro Police Department

“Either you comply or you die,” activist Tara Pruitt said at a meeting covered by the Courier-Journal. “De-escalation tactics are not used when it comes to people of color.”

Another advocate, Chanelle Helm, said Blanford’s response might have been warranted if Manyoun was “a criminal with a gun.”

“You’re telling me you can’t defeat a person with a flagpole who seems to be intoxicated?” Helm said. “An officer is supposed to be trained to protect people. He lost all type of control.”

During a press conference, Louisville Police Chief Steve Conrad played a video of the incident and said Blanford tried to create a space between himself and the suspect, who was swinging the pole “in a sledge hammer-like motion.”

“Quite frankly, when you’ve got somebody coming at you with a dangerous instrument of that type…I don’t know…that the officer had the opportunity to transition to a less lethal option,” Conrad said.

Authorities haven’t yet interviewed Blanford to get his side of the story. The officer was not taken to a hospital and does not appear to have been injured.

Get The Beast In Your Inbox!
By clicking "Subscribe," you agree to have read the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy
Thank You!
You are now subscribed to the Daily Digest and Cheat Sheet. We will not share your email with anyone for any reason

Conrad would not identify Manyoun as the suspect or discuss his criminal history, despite Louisville’s coroner and multiple media outlets identifying him.

Manyoun appeared to have a lengthy rap sheet, including a June 2 arrest for disorderly conduct, according to WHAS-TV.

Using the spelling Manyuon instead of Manyoun, a search of the man’s name brings up a mugshot for the June 2 arrest, along with others for resisting arrest, menacing, and indecent exposure.

Court records also show a man named Deng Wol Manyuon—also spelled Deng Manyoun in news articles—was charged with assaulting a federal courtroom security officer.

That arrest came in August 2013, when Manyoun was at a citizenship and immigration office inside a federal courthouse in Louisville. As an employee at a service window was assisting him, he reached under the protective glass and knocked over her computer monitor and other items, according to one deputy U.S. Marshals arrest affidavit.

Manyoun then tried to chuck a trash can at a court security officer and punched him in the face, the document states.

Louisville Metro Police Officer Nathan Blanford

Louisville Metro Police Department

Louisville Metro Police Officer Nathan Blanford.

Court documents reveal that Manyoun required an interpreter to speak Dinka, the language of a pastoral ethnic group in South Sudan. He eventually pleaded guilty in July 2014, after requesting a psychological examination, which is sealed.

After stints in federal immigration custody and scraps in Louisville, Manyoun would meet his demise over a flagpole.

The day Manyoun was killed, police were responding to a call about a woman who was punched by a stranger as she used her cellphone. Manyoun matched the description of the suspect: a black man in his 30s, wearing a white T-shirt and gray pants.

It’s unclear whether Officer Blanford—who has been on the force since 2005—pulled over because Manyoun looked like the attacker or because the man was stumbling into traffic.

Manyoun was almost struck by a car before Blanford spotted him. The cop “was dealing with someone who had essentially jaywalked” before the scene turned violent, Conrad said.

An unnamed witness, however, painted a different picture of the scene.

“I was at the light and the cop was telling the guy to do something and the man had took a couple steps back,” the witness told WLKY. “The cop pulled out his weapon and shot to kill him.”

Still, as police investigate whether Blanford’s use of force was justified, Conrad said the public should know that sometimes deadly tactics by police are unavoidable.

“We absolutely cherish the importance of human life,” the chief said. “The last thing any officer wants to have to do is take a life.”