Leaning on faith, Louisville mourns victims of mass shooting
Apr 11, 2023, 10:01 AM | Updated: 2:50 pm
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — They went to their churches on the evening after Easter — to cry, to light candles, to ask God why, on this holiday of rebirth, they must mourn so much death.
Many in Louisville turned to their faith for impromptu services Monday night, hours after a gunman killed five of his co-workers at Old National Bank downtown and injured eight others.
Hundreds gathered at Holy Trinity Catholic Church, where one of the victims, Joshua Barrick, was an active member. His family sat in the front pews, and fellow congregants hugged them and wept.
“He was so well known, he made himself known,” the Rev. Shayne Duvall said. “This community is mourning. We’re trying to wrap our heads around it.”
Barrick, 40, was a senior vice president at Old National Bank, and Duvall remembered him as a big guy with a bubbly personality. He had a wife and two young children, one girl and one boy, who attended the parish’s grade school. Barrick coached basketball for first and second graders — a charismatic, charming man who patiently wrangled the little kids.
Duvall said he spent most of the day with Barrick’s family and friends.
“They’re in shock. Everyone is just kind of walking around in a fog. Like, ‘Did this really just happen?’” he said. “This has been a beautiful morning. Who thought, ‘I’m going to work today and something like this could happen?’”
Police say the 25-year-old gunman opened fire around 8:30 a.m. Monday while livestreaming the attack on Instagram. Barrick and four of his co-workers were killed: Tommy Elliott, 63, also a bank senior vice president; Jim Tutt Jr., 64, a commercial real estate market executive; Juliana Farmer, 45, a loan analyst; and Deana Eckert, 57, an executive administrative officer.
Elliott was prominent in Democratic politics, and a close friend of Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear.
Beshear struggled at a news conference Monday afternoon to understand how such horror could happen the day after Easter.
“We lost four children of God today — one of whom is one of my closest friends,” Beshear said, his voice quivering. “We need love for each other. It seems like we argue so much in this country, so much anger. And I still believe that love and compassion and humanity can lead us to a better place. This is hard, it’s really hard, the day after Easter. Easter is about a rebirth, a better world, one where we’re all supposed to work together to get there.”
Elliott’s network of friends included Louisville native Lonnie Ali, widow of the late boxing great Muhammad Ali, both of whom grew up in Louisville. She pointed to Elliott’s sense of humor and commitment to his community.
“Tommy was such a warm, wonderful, funny, kind guy,” she said. “Just the sweetest person. And it’s just such a huge loss, not just to his friends and family, but to the community. Because that’s what Tommy was about. Tommy was about community.”
Elliott always rooted for the underdog and tried to use his connections to give people a boost, said former Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, who knew Elliott for 40 years.
Fischer said Elliott quietly took care of his aging relatives, never complaining, and was a devoted husband and father to four girls.
“You think about them going to the house tonight and he’s not there,” Fischer said. “And that’s not right.”
Kevin Luoma, who left the bank last May to take care of his elderly father, worked with several of the victims. Luoma said when his father was having a hard time at the nursing home, Elliott, who would regularly visit his mother-in-law at her own nursing home, was there to answer any questions and said he’d do anything to help.
Luoma said Deana Eckert helped organize the annual bank celebration for Thunder Over Louisville, the fireworks kickoff event before the Kentucky Derby. Eckert would put together a large food spread in the conference room where the shooting occurred.
“These people just went to work,” he said. “It’s numbing right now.”
Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg said at a news conference Tuesday that he also knew Eckert, a mother of two, who died at the hospital late Monday evening.
“Deana was a very kind and very thoughtful person. She was a wonderful woman who will be missed,” he said. “Her death means another family in mourning and adds yet another layer of tragedy to this moment.”
U.S. Rep. Morgan McGarvey, a Louisville native, spoke of the city’s reputation as “the biggest small town in America.” He said he calls it “Louisvillage” because everyone is connected to just about everyone else, compounding the grief echoing across the city.
The loss swept across the state, too.
In Henderson, Kentucky, 130 miles (209 kilometers) west of Louisville, friends and family of Juliana Farmer were still in disbelief Tuesday, remembering her as a caring person who was always there to offer support when they needed her.
Farmer recently moved from Henderson to Louisville for her job as a loan analyst at the bank.
“Her soul was so beautiful,” family friend Lori Brooks McGuire told The Associated Press. “She would talk to anybody. You just enjoyed her.”
McGuire said Farmer had just come back from a beach vacation and was excited to learn about her fifth grandchild. On Facebook Sunday, Farmer had written that her heart was happy about the new addition to her family.
“I’m mad because he took a good person away from this world,” McGuire said of the shooter. “She did not have to go so soon.”
Twenty-five miles (40 kilometers) east of Louisville, LaGrange Mayor John Black said he knew Jim Tutt Jr., who had volunteered for years on an economic development board in Oldham County, adjacent to Louisville. Tutt helped the mayor and other public officials with complicated financial transactions and led the board as president.
“He always wanted to volunteer to be a part of our city and help out,” said Black, who appointed Tutt to the board. But Tutt wasn’t an ordinary volunteer; he had great negotiating skills and deep knowledge of land development deals that made him critical to the board’s success, Black said.
“Jim was my go-to person that I had all the faith and trust in,” he said. Tutt was president of the board for about six years before stepping down last year, according to Black.
Rep. McGarvey also had connections to the victims. The maid of honor at his wedding — whose children are his godchildren — called him from Joshua Barrick’s home Monday. She is close with the family, and said his wife hadn’t heard from him. She asked McGarvey to find out if he was alive. McGarvey called the police, then had to call her back to say he wasn’t on the list of survivors.
“She had to tell their two small children that their father would never come home from work,” McGarvey said.
At Barrick’s church Monday evening, the priest told a story of the last time he spoke to him.
Barrick had asked for a meeting to talk about the church’s new initiatives. Duvall said the last thing Barrick said to him was: “Father, I’ll do whatever you ask. You can count on me.”
The church placed a photo of Barrick with a wide smile on its altar, and a second of him with his wife and two children, a young family holding each other in a field. There were five candles, for each of the four victims and, the priest noted, one for the shooter too.
Duvall prayed for all of those killed, for their souls and their families, for mercy and for peace.
“There was a shooter. There’s going to be a lot of people in this community that are angry and mad at him, and they have every right to be,” Duvall said. “But I still have to pray for his soul too.”
This story has been edited to correct that McGarvey did not know Eckert.
Associated Press reporter Dylan Lovan in Louisville, Kentucky, contributed to this report. Schreiner reported from Frankfort, Kentucky. Dupuy reported from New York.