They saved me — How protesters protected a lone cop — 2020

A crowd of protesters had surrounded a police cruiser at the base of the Clark Memorial Bridge. The officer inside radioed for help as protesters — strobed in blue and red patrol car lights — banged on the car’s hood and windshield.

Hinshaw, a Fourth Division patrol officer and part of Louisville Metro Police Department’s Special Response Team, drove as close as he could to the scene. As he got out of his cruiser, he was immediately surrounded by protesters.

Some yelled profanities. Others balled their fists.

He made his way through the crowd wearing 40 extra pounds of safety gear — a baton, vest, helmet and body armor.

He was alone.

“We do care, man, we do care,” he said.

Hinshaw tried to reason with the crowd.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry you feel this way,” Hinshaw yelled, trying to make his voice heard over the anger of the crowd.

The 32-year-old was scared.

It was at this moment that a man emerged from the crowd in a red University of Louisville mask covering the lower half of his face. He put himself between the closest protester and Hinshaw.

“Once I saw the guy with the red mask step up, I said, ‘I gotta step up,’” said Lee, who also runs a child care center. “It was reactive. I just went.”

He had no idea what would happen next.

“I really thought at that moment, ‘Protect him. It really isn’t his fault.'” Lee said.

Suddenly, the protesters seemed to turn on Lee. One man who had marched with him for nearly the whole protest was surprised. Another shouted in Lee’s face: “How can you protect him!”

Lee got nervous.

Ultimately, five men formed a human shield to protect Hinshaw. All of them strangers to one another. Nobody knew the name of the man to his left or to his right. Three were black, one white, one Dominican — all linking arms to keep harm away from Hinshaw, himself half-Pakistani.

“A human was in trouble, and right is right,” said Ricky McClellan, a factory worker from Old Louisville who was locked onto Lee’s left arm.

For De La Cruz, a local businessman, the moment was about accountability.

“If I can hold my brothers accountable, if I can march with my brothers and turn against them to say, ‘This isn’t right,’ that’s where the accountability comes in,” he said.

“In the end, that’s all that we are asking for,” said De La Cruz, whose uncle is a police officer. “What we need is for those great cops to hold their brothers and sisters accountable at all times.”

“Those guys, they saved me,” Hinshaw said. “There’s no doubt about it. And I am beyond thankful. If it wasn’t for them intervening and recognizing that I was in trouble and helping me, I am sure that I would’ve been assaulted in one form or another.

“If they didn’t intervene, something was gonna happen to me.”

Hinshaw continues to be moved by the moment.

“I’ve cried over that incident,” he said.

“It was a moment where strangers came together to help another stranger, and that stranger was me.”

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