Broken Brown & Williamson Tower window in downtown Louisville

Just days after installing new windows in an office building in downtown Louisville, every single piece of glass was broken over the weekend.

The exterior windows of Brown & Williamson Tower along Liberty Street were replaced on Friday months after they were broken on the first few nights of protests against Breonna Taylor’s death in late May, said Doug Owen, senior vice president of JLL leasing agency.

Shortly before midnight Sunday, surveillance cameras arrested a man who, according to police records, had broken the window with a hammer.

Louisville Subway police officers arrested 38-year-old Troy Mercer Monday morning and charged him with first degree criminal mischief after an investigation found he broke the windows.

Owen said the incident was an example of a vagabond problem he has been grappling with the city council for months.

“In my opinion, it’s just swept under the rug,” said Owen. “It’s either something they don’t want to deal with, or something they can’t deal with, or they are afraid to deal with it. It’s a difficult situation. I mean, there is no easy answer.”

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Downtown shops were boarded up for months in the summer and persisted after the protests receded. Louisville leaders requested that the plywood be dismantled in early October. The boarded-up windows had sent the wrong message to the city and the business owners started removing them.

Now Brown & Williamson Towers will be re-boarded for an undisclosed period, Owen said.

Among possible solutions, Owen lists a sit-and-lie ordinance (which prohibits sitting or lying on the sidewalk), closing sidewalks under the flyovers on Interstate 65, and increasing the walking and patrols of downtown police.

Police spokesman John Bradley said the LMPD downtown patrol is seeking “targeted patrols” of the area, both on foot and in vehicles, to avoid incidents like the vandalism at Brown & Williamson Tower, the former home of the tobacco giant before Merged, cut down with RJ Reynolds and moved out.

Jean Porter, spokesman for Mayor Greg Fischer, said the city and the LMPD are working on solutions to the problems, but “there is no ‘quick fix’.”

“Firstly, we are very sorry for the vandalism at the B&W Tower and we understand how it adds to the frustration of a good corporate citizen trying to empower our downtown area during this troubled time,” Porter said in an email.

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The Louisville Metro government and homeless service providers are in talks about additional steps that can be taken to resolve issues highlighted by the Tower incident, Porter said.

“(W) We agree that additional resources need to be added to address these challenges,” added Porter.

If downtown security isn’t vetted, it creates a snowball effect that hinders the growth of Louisville as a whole, Owen said.

“If people are scared of going downtown for vagrants, those companies will just never succeed,” he said. “It’s a bad situation for everyone, but I think the city needs a leadership role.”

Reach Emma Austin at eaustin@gannett.com or on Twitter at @emmacaustin.

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