Fayette County

NAACP urges patience as police investigate teen’s Fayette Mall arrest

The Lexington chapter of the NAACP is urging the community to be patient while police investigate the arrest of a a teen who was charged following an altercation involving officers at Fayette Mall.

Antonio Taylor, the father of the 16-year-old, shared a video of the Feb. 2 arrest on Facebook, saying the boy was unnecessarily hit by one of the officers. It was later revealed that the boy has autism.

The NAACP released its statement Tuesday afternoon, as protesters announced plans to gather downtown again Tuesday night to voice their concerns about the way police handled the arrest.

“We believe it prudent to allow the police time to fact find and follow due process, so we urge patience. We call for reservation of judgment for all parties, most particularly for the minor involved, who being a child can suffer great harm from online bullying and mockery,” the organization said in a statement.

The NAACP said representatives have talked with Lexington Police Chief Lawrence Weathers about the video and are “concerned by the violence and police-citizen interaction documented in this video.”

The NAACP said it would like for the officer to be “pulled from any civilian interaction” until the investigation is finished.

“Interactions with all citizens, whether that citizen is a child or an adult, are extremely important,” the statement said. “Consequently, this investigation should be treated seriously. For a community to trust in law enforcement, it must see that they are there for all of us.”

The topic also came up during a Tuesday Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council work session.

Lexington Councilman Chuck Ellinger II asked where the investigation stood.

Lexington Police Cmdr. Roger Holland told the council the department’s internal affairs division was investigating the incident. Holland told the council that he could not say how long the investigation would take.

Councilman James Brown said he had also spoken to Weathers and that he had assured him the incident was being investigated by internal affairs.

The officer whose actions raised concerns works in an administrative role, police have said. Police spokeswoman Brenna Angel said Tuesday that he had not been reassigned. Police have not confirmed the officer’s identity.

Police previously said that he and another officer were working an off-duty assignment at the mall that Saturday night when mall security asked them “to investigate a group of teenagers who had been acting disorderly in several stores.”

The officers had detained the group when the 16-year-old “became noncompliant with an officer’s request,” police said in a prior news release. Police said the teen hit the officer in the face, injuring him, “and punches were exchanged while both were on the ground.”

Angel said Tuesday that the teen’s autism “came to our attention after the fact.”

“I don’t know that we knew it that night,” she said.

The NAACP addressed that issue in its statement, saying, “we would like to acknowledge the substantive past and ongoing efforts of Lexington police officers, such as their collaborations with the Autism Society of the Bluegrass, to help disabled children and to mitigate their risk of exposure to violence. We know that our LPD leadership, as well as LPD rank and file, have the same interest in the welfare of children as do we.

“However, we must all be held to the highest standards for citizenship. Thus we expect and look forward to a full report, with actionable steps as well as appropriate accountability that will help prevent a situation like this from happening in the future.”

The protesters have released a list of nine demands.

They say they want the officer in the video to resign or be terminated. They want police to release body camera footage and mall security footage and “publicly acknowledge the names and positions of the officers involved.”

Angel said state law prevents police from releasing body camera footage that involves juveniles, and the police department only identifies officers in cases involving a fatality.

The protesters also said they want to be sure that all officers wear body cameras to record public interactions and that “equipment and policy must be changed to ensure that no officer can ever escape accountability by the body camera ‘malfunctioning’ or not being worn.”

Police previously said one of the officers did not have a body camera because he works in an administrative role. The other officer’s body camera did not record, and police are trying to determine why. Police said in a previous statement that they “will address that issue accordingly.”

Angel said 435 officers are assigned a body camera, while another 167 do not have one.

She said all patrol, traffic, narcotics and canine unit officers have body cameras and are required to activate them any time they have “a law enforcement encounter.”

Protesters also want “all policy and procedures regarding the apprehension and detaining of a minor (to) be made easily accessible to the community and, if punching is allowed per policy, this policy must be changed to ensure the safety and humanity of children encountering LPD.”

Angel said the police department’s policies are available online and outline “what’s appropriate.”

“We have a continuum of force, so there is a policy called response to resistance,” she said.

The teen has been charged with two counts of third-degree assault, resisting arrest, second-degree disorderly conduct and third-degree criminal mischief. After being charged, he was released into the custody of his mother.

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Karla Ward is a native of Logan County who has worked as a reporter at the Herald-Leader for 18 years. She covers breaking news.