Lexington officials on recent shootings: This is a safe city

jmadden@herald-leader.comJuly 7, 2014 

  • Recent Lexington shootings

    June 21 — A 17-year-old girl was shot in the neck about 1:30 a.m. by a man who then stole the car in which she and a 16-year-old friend were riding. Police said the man, wearing a dark shirt with a bandanna around his neck, fired two shots into the car and ordered the girls to get out. He drove away in the car, which was found wrecked and abandoned at Parkers Mill and Bowman Mill roads.

    June 21 — Also about 1:30 a.m., Jonathan Thomas Price was fatally shot in the back and his wife, Megan Price, was shot in the leg in the parking lot at Woodhill Shopping Center.

    June 22 — About 12:55 a.m., police found Charles Wright, 32, in the street at 154 East Sixth Street with multiple gunshot wounds. He died about 1:20 a.m. at University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital. Police said witnesses reported seeing a man with shoulder-length dreadlocks and a white T-shirt leaving the area in a silver car.

    June 22 — About 2:30 a.m., police found a man with a gunshot wound to the chest at Sixth Street and Shropshire Avenue. The victim, who was not identified, went to the hospital with an injury that did not appear to be life-threatening, police said. Roberts said the victim told officers he'd been shot by a man with dreadlocks.

    June 30 — About 11 a.m., a man was seen on surveillance tape shooting at another man at Shopper's Choice Market at Georgetown Street and Glen Arvin Avenue. The injured man was taken to University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital with injuries that were not life- threatening. Police began an investigation 15 minutes later, but the man who had been shot refused to cooperate with police.

    June 30 — Hours later, four women were shot at a house at 457 Scottsdale Circle. One of the women, Kierra Green, 18, of Nicholasville, died July 1 at University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital.

    July 1 — Police were called to the 1900 block of Cambridge Drive about 10:30 a.m. after a man was shot in the back. The wounded man was taken to University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital with injuries that were not life-threatening. Police said they believed that Daniel Martinez, 40, shot the other man when the two were running in the street.

    July 6 — A woman died after she was shot several times and found on the porch of a house on Race Street just before 3 p.m.

Hours after Lexington's 11th homicide was confirmed Monday, public safety officials assured the community that Lexington was a safe place.

Comments from police Sgt. Pete Ford, a member of the Robbery/Homicide Unit, Police Chief Ronnie Bastin and Mayor Jim Gray came after the coroner confirmed the death of a woman who was found Sunday afternoon on her front porch in the 200 block of Race Street. She had been shot several times.

Amanda Franco, 23, was the fourth person to die in Lexington in shootings in various parts of town since late June. At least 12 people have been wounded by gunfire during that time.

Ford sought to reassure the public.

"There are numerous people, when we respond to these scenes, they're very concerned, and we understand that," he said during a news conference. "We want to be able to quell some of that fear the neighbors are having. ... They're concerned about walking from their front door to their car ... sitting out on their front porch. And they shouldn't have that fear in this city."

Ford said it was important to note that Franco was involved in a "high-risk lifestyle," but he declined to elaborate.

Lexington police spokeswoman Sherelle Roberts described a high-risk lifestyle as one in which drugs are being bought or sold, or involving other criminal activity.

Court documents show Franco was charged June 18 with first-degree trafficking in a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia. She pleaded not guilty and was released June 26 after posting $2,500 bail. Franco was given an electronic ankle monitor.

Ford said he could not discuss many details about Franco's homicide. He did say that it did not appear to be related to the earlier shootings.

In the Sunday shooting — and the shootings that preceded it — there have been vague descriptions of the suspects.

On Monday, Ford said the police department was "retracting" earlier descriptions of Franco's killer. The sergeant said investigators had received a lot of information about the shooting, but no one had come forward who witnessed it, although a lot of people heard it.

Ford said detectives needed to sift through information from the public to find the details that would help them close the case.

Police also want that flow of information for the other shooting investigations; no arrests have been made in any of them.

Investigators have been working around the clock, Ford said. He said the police were looking into every possible angle, including whether the shootings were gang-related.

Later Monday, the department identified a suspect in one of the city's five open homicide investigations.

An arrest warrant was issued for Jefferey Charles Morris, 30, charging him with murder and tampering with evidence in the death of Anthony Carter, 47, on June 11 at Fourth and Chestnut streets.

City officials cited the department's history of clearing homicide investigations.

For the past two years, Lexington's homicide unit has solved 100 percent of its cases, Bastin said. Most departments solve about 60 percent of such cases, he said.

Bastin said Lexington's homicide numbers remained low compared with those of other cities. Cincinnati, for example, has about 80 homicides a year, he said.

The mayor and the police chief said investigators were pursuing leads aggressively in the recent rash of shootings, and they promised that police would do everything they could to solve the cases.

Franco's slaying was the fourth since June 21, when Jonathan Price, 26, a Marine, was killed in the Woodhill area, and Charles Wright, 32, an aspiring rapper, was shot and killed outside his home on Sixth Street. Last week, Kieara Nicole Green, 18, died after being shot several times at a house on Scottsdale Circle.

"This cluster does create anxiety and distress, and it's troubling. ... That's what our law officials have recognized," Gray said. "We need to acknowledge that ... these criminals and these acts of violence will not be tolerated in Lexington."

Gray has championed the efforts of Lexington police and has approved overtime funds, giving the department more flexibility to pursue leads, add officers to different units or increase patrols.

The department's Community Law Enforcement Action Response unit, which oversees neighborhoods, is partnering with community leaders in the city's East End, where several of the recent shootings have occurred, Bastin said.

Asked whether there was a root cause or catalyst behind the shootings, Bastin said it was difficult to say.

He reiterated that some of the shootings stemmed from drug and domestic violence issues, but "there isn't a single thing" that accounts for the sporadic and random acts of violence.

City officials said the number of recent shootings was a bit unusual, but the number of homicides wasn't.

Lexington recorded nine homicides last year during the first part of the year. In 2012, there were six and in 2011 there were 13.

Still, it's been nearly three years since there were so many shootings in such a short time. In 2011, there was a week in October with 11 reported shootings and at least 10 victims.

There also have been times where the community was concerned about rashes of violence.

In 2012, for example, there was a series of shootings in the city that involved teenagers, sparking a community-wide effort to tackle the problem. And in 2013, peace walks were led by the Rev. Willis Polk of Imani Baptist Church in August and September to protest violence. There have been similar efforts this year, and more are planned.

When asked whether investigations had stalled because of a lack of trust between the police department and residents, Bastin said the investigations were "progressing" in large part because of the community.

"We are at a different spot than what we have been in terms of public support," he said. "We're getting good information from the community, and I think that's a very healthy sign from the issue that we're facing right now."

Gray said he was confident of the department's ability to resolve these cases.

"If you commit a violent crime in Lexington, you are going to be caught," he said.

Anthany Beatty, a former Lexington police chief who is running against Gray in the November mayoral election, has made public safety one of the pillars of his campaign.

He said Monday that it would take more than law enforcement to stop violence in the community.

Police "need support to get our city back to some sense of normalcy," he said. "Citizens and neighbors all have to have a stake."

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

Lexington Herald-Leader is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service