Louisville, KY – The Louisville Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) has backed out of their plan to pay a high-profile attorney to defend an employee accused of killing a police detective while driving under the influence on Christmas Eve.
Louisville Metro Police (LMP) Detective Deidre “Dee Dee” Mengedoht, 32, was conducting a traffic stop under the Belvedere underpass on Interstate 64 at approximately 2:09 p.m., when MSD tractor-trailer driver Roger Burdette slammed into her cruiser from behind, WDRB reported.
The violent impact shoved Det. Mengedoht’s patrol car into the back of the truck she had pulled over, and she became trapped inside the flaming wreckage of her mangled cruiser, WKYT.
Det. Mengedoht, a mother of a young son, died at the scene.
According to police, Burdette, 60, admitted to having consumed multiple prescription drugs prior to the collision, the Courier Journal reported.
“[He] made no attempt to avoid collision with [the] police vehicle,” his arrest citation read, according to the news outlet.
Police reports indicated Burdette also failed a sobriety test, WAVE reported.
He has been charged with driving under the influence and murder of a police officer.
On Friday, WAVE reported that MSD hired high-priced defense attorney David Lambertus to represent Burdette, who pleaded not guilty to the offenses against him on Dec. 26.
The MSD is not a Louisville Metro government entity, but is governed by an eight-member board appointed by the city’s mayor, according to WAVE.
It was unclear why MSD initially opted to hire legal counsel to defend Burdette, but it quickly received backlash for the decision.
“The city has never paid for the criminal defense of an employee and would not given KRS chapter 65.2005, which provides for defending employees from civil liability only,” Mayor Greg Fischer’s spokesperson, Jean Porter, told WAVE.
“We do not think it is proper for MSD to pay for the criminal defense…And we are talking with MSD about this decision,” Porter added.
Louisville Metro Council President David James agreed, and said he was “shocked” to hear of an agency paying to defend an employee charged with a criminal offense.
"I’m shocked to hear MSD would use rate payer funds to pay for a criminal defense attorney to represent the MSD employee charged with killing a Louisville Metro Police Officer,” James railed.
"I've been with metro government over 30 years," James, a former LMPD officer, told the Courier Journal. "I don’t recall any agency or any department paying for the legal defense for a criminal defendant who is a metro employee."
But MSD abruptly backtracked on Saturday afternoon, and said their plan to pay for Burdette’s defense had changed, WDRB reported.
"MSD will not pay for legal representation for MSD employee Roger Burdette,” the agency said in a statement.
“Roger Burdette is a tractor-trailer driver for MSD, where he has been employed for 10 years. He was working for MSD on Monday, December 24, at the time of a fatal accident on Interstate 64 in downtown Louisville,” the statement read. “As a result of his involvement in this accident, he has been placed on unpaid status, pending suspension."
Burdette is being held at the Louisville Metro Corrections facility on $200,000 bond, and is due back in court in January.
Det. Mengedoht served in the LMPD’s Second Division, and had been with the department for over seven years.
"DeeDee, as she was known to her friends and colleagues, gave her life serving the community, which is something she loved to do," Chief Conrad said during a press conference shortly after the fatal crash. “She always went above and beyond what was asked of her or required of her…This is a tragic, tragic day for everyone."
"My heart goes out to her mother, her father, her young son, and to her family and friends and her colleagues on this department," Chief Conrad said.
Former LMPD Second Division Commander Jimmy Harper described Det. Mengedoht as an outstanding detective who truly understood what it meant to serve others, the Courier Journal reported.
"I was truly impressed with her true desire to do her best and be her best, not for her own self-promotion, but because she gave a damn about the Second Division community at a time when LMPD and our community needed the best from our public servants,” Commander Harper said.
“She had gained a lot of respect in her short career,” he noted. “Some of the bad guys liked to call her ‘Blondie’ as a sign of appreciation because they liked her so much."
Fischer said that Det. Mengedoht’s tragic death was a “painful reminder” of the sacrifices law enforcement officers make each day, and he urged those celebrating with their families to remember the fallen officer’s family and coworkers.
"My heart is breaking today as we mourn the tragic death of Louisville Metro Police Detective Deidre Mengedoht,” Fischer said. “She committed herself to service on behalf of our city, and her death is a painful reminder of the sacrifices that our public safety professionals make every day.”
"At a time when so many of us are gathered with family in celebration of the holidays, this is a terribly sad day for our entire community,” the mayor continued. “I urge my fellow citizens to join me in praying for Deidre’s family, and her LMPD brothers and sisters."