After juveniles take patrol car, Lexington officer loses take-home privilege

jmadden@herald-leader.comMay 9, 2014 

LEXINGTON HERALD-LEADER

A Lexington police officer can no longer take his cruiser home, and he could be disciplined after three juveniles took his cruiser on a joy ride in Louisville and then led police on a chase.

State police arrested the juveniles early Friday in Franklin County. Authorities would not release any details about the juveniles or say whether they were related to the officer, Earl Rayford.

Lexington police Chief Ronnie Bastin said this was not the first time that a juvenile has stolen Rayford's cruiser from his home. Bastin said he considers this a serious matter.

"We realize that we have a duty and a responsibility to protect (Lexington-Fayette) Urban County Government property and especially police cruisers," he said.

An internal investigation has been started to determine what disciplinary action might be appropriate for Rayford and to thoroughly investigate the case, Bastin said.

Privileges of the Home Fleet Program also have been suspended for Rayford's wife, Connie, who is a police safety officer.

Bastin said Louisville police officers saw the cruiser about 5 a.m. Officers called Lexington police, alerting them that one of their cruisers was driving with lights and sirens. The Louisville officers gave Lexington police the vehicle's identification number.

Afterward, Bastin said, police arrived at Rayford's home and determined that the cruiser and a male juvenile were not there.

Commercial Vehicle Enforcement officers spotted the vehicle headed east on Interstate 64 in Shelby County, according to a Kentucky State Police news release.

The vehicle-enforcement officers attempted to stop the vehicle. A pursuit continued for about 20 miles, lasting more than 20 minutes.

The officers deployed a tire-deflation device in the eastbound lanes of I-64 near the Frankfort-Lawrenceburg exit, and the car was forced to halt. State police did not say whether the juveniles were charged.

Rayford has been disciplined before by the Lexington police department.

In 2011, he was demoted from sergeant to officer stemming from an Aug. 10, 2010, arrest of former Kentucky State University basketball player Delvegio Christopher Lax.

Lax, then 25, was dating Rayford's stepdaughter. Rayford learned of a fugitive warrant for Lax's arrest, and he called police dispatchers and asked them to send officers to arrest Lax. The officers arrested Lax and found crack cocaine, a handgun and $450.

One officer took Lax to jail, another took the money, drugs and the handgun to police headquarters with the intention of booking it as evidence. The officers said they planned to charge Lax with drug trafficking.

However, after calls from Rayford to the officers, one of them took the money to an address Rayford provided and gave it to Rayford's wife. Rayford said his stepdaughter had told his wife Lax had her rent money.

Justin Madden: (859) 231-3197. Twitter: @HLpublicsafety.

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