A 26-year-old rookie Louisville police officer – who graduated from the police academy just 11 days ago – was hospitalized after being shot in the head while responding to a mass shooting Monday at a downtown bank that left five people dead and others injured, police said.
Louisville Metro Police Department Officer Nickolas Wilt underwent brain surgery after being struck during a shootout in the bank that left the gunman dead, Jacquelyn Gwinn-Villaroel, the interim chief of the police department, said Monday afternoon during a news conference.
The officer was still in critical condition Tuesday afternoon.
“They have him sedated. We are keeping our fingers crossed. It’s just a wait and see,” LaGrange Fire Chief Jim Sitzler told CNN. Wilt is a volunteer firefighter with the department, Sitzler said.
Wilt was new to the police department, having graduated from the police academy on March 31, according to the fire chief.
“I just swore him in, and his family was there to witness his journey to become a police officer,” Gwinn-Villaroel said.
Public service is in Wilt’s DNA, Sitzler said.
“He is an asset to the department,” where he has volunteered since 2016, the fire chief said. “He is young and ambitious.”
“Hopefully, he will recover enough where he can go to rehab,” Sitzler said. “One of our majors talked to his brother Zach … (Nick) is going to have a long road ahead of him but he’s young.”
Col. Deborah Berry, who worked with Wilt at the Oldham County EMS, said she wasn’t surprised when Wilt decided to become a police officer.
“It makes me so proud that he exemplifies what a true hero is,” Berry said. Wilt had beem an emergency medical technician for several years in addition to being a firefighter, and “he never, never turned away from any type of act that a lot of folks would run from,” she told CNN’s Erica Hill.
Wilt told Berry and others at the EMS that being a police officer was his dream, she said.
Wilt was led by a field training officer into the fatal workplace shooting, a law enforcement source describes.
The shooting at Old National Bank broke out just after 8:30 a.m. police said, about 30 minutes before the bank opens to the public.
Officers responded within three minutes of being dispatched and found the gunman was still firing inside the bank, authorities said. The shooter was identified by authorities as Connor Sturgeon, a 25-year-old employee.
Another officer was also injured in the attack and was hospitalized after being hit in the elbow, the chief said.
The five victims, all between the ages of 40 and 64, have been identified as Joshua Barrick, Deana Eckert, Tommy Elliott, Juliana Farmer and James Tutt. The victims included a close friend of Gov. Andy Beshear.
Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg visited Wilt at the University of Louisville Hospital, telling CNN Wilt “made it through surgery and he’s in serious condition at the hospital right now but he is in great hands.”
Greenberg had handed Wilt his graduation diploma from the police academy, he said.
“I paid a visit to his academy class that was there at the hospital offering to support him, offering the support to he and his family today,” the mayor said.
Wilts’ father died recently of natural causes while he was in the police academy, the source says. And his brother is currently in the police academy.
CNN’s Eric Levenson, Kristina Sgueglia, John Miller, Adrienne Broaddus, Bill Kirkos and Theresa Waldrop contributed to this report.