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'I hope we remember his strength': Community leaders mourn loss of prominent Louisville activist

Over the years, Chris Wells' presence has been synonymous with the 2020 protest movement, demands for police reform and calls for justice in the Breonna Taylor case.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A prominent Louisville activist and leader in the 2020 protest movement has died at the age of 33.

On Monday, the Jefferson County Coroner's Office matched Christopher Wells' identity to the man police said was found dead in an apartment Sunday afternoon. Louisville Metro Police (LMPD) said they determined he died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Community members said they're mourning a 'tremendous loss.'

Over the years, Wells' presence has become synonymous with demands for police reform and calls for justice in the Breonna Taylor case. He's well known for helping lead numerous protests through the streets of downtown.

Most recently in early August, Wells joined a group of activists in Jefferson Square Park to share their thoughts after four LMPD officers were federally charged in connection with Taylor's death.

"Within those voices, you've gotta have someone who has the heart of the community, and Chris had that," said Timothy Findley Jr., senior pastor at Kingdom Fellowship Christian Life Center. "He was very strategic. He was one who understood the moment."

Findley said Wells stood strong for the change he felt the city deserved, especially after Taylor's death.

In an interview with WHAS11 in May 2021, Wells then called for Mayor Greg Fischer and Chief of Police Erika Shields to hold community meetings about potential policy changes.

"We're still out here a whole year later," Wells said in 2021. "Still fighting for this, and now we need everything changed, policies changed. Change is good if you really think about it."

Rev. Stachelle Bussey, founder of The Hope Buss and executive director of the Hope Village, talked about the legacy Wells left behind.

"I'm encouraging everybody to be like Chris -- to find what makes your heart beat, to work hard toward it, and even when you don't feel like people see you, [to] keep showing up," she said.

Louisville Urban League CEO Sadiqa Reynolds said she'd been in contact with Wells as he was working with the Urban League to get assistance.

"I hope we remember his strength. I hope we remember his courage," Reynolds said.

Reynolds called Wells' death another tragic consequence of what led folks to protest in the first place: A community not feeling wanted or valued.

"So many have been impacted by the system in this case and the decisions people have made," she said.

Court records show Wells was due in court in October for two different cases of protest-related charges dating back to 2020.

Meanwhile, community leaders are encouraging anyone needing mental health assistance to seek out help, saying there are an abundance of resources available.

"There's a lot of collective trauma and need for healing in our community. Period," Findley said.

The Facebook group 'Therapists for Protestor Wellness' is designated for activists in Louisville to get easier access to mental health services. The network is made up of more than 50 mental health professionals in Kentuckiana.

If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, help is available. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7, by calling 988.

Local activists held a news conference at Jefferson Square Park Monday evening to remember Wells.

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