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Mayor releases statement on internal police investigation into beating death response

By: Gabriel Roxas Email
By: Gabriel Roxas Email

Tuesday Lexington Mayor Jim Newberry responded to how police handled the case involving a woman who was found beaten outside her own apartment.

Umi Southworth died last week after being found badly beaten outside her apartment on Meadowthorpe Avenue. Once police arrived at the scene it took nearly five hours to get her medical help because they mistakenly thought she was dead. She died at the hospital the next day.

Since early on police have said little about their response to the Southworth case, only that if they find mistakes were made, they will take appropriate action. Tuesday, Mayor Newberry announced the case needs a fresh set of eyes.

In a statement he said he and Police Chief Ronnie Bastin, "discussed the situation in some detail, and we have agreed that professionals from outside the Division of Police should be involved in the review of the police's response to the incident." Meanwhile, those who knew Southworth aren't keeping quiet about their growing frustration with the way the investigation has been handled.

Music was a major part of Umi Southworth's life, especially taking her daughter to lessons with David McLean, who grew close to the family. "Umi was always very supportive of that, and the parents were always driving her to this gig or that gig and that sort of thing," McLean said.

Like many of Southworth's friends, McLean still finds it hard to believe she's gone. "It just seems impossible. I thought it was a bizarre joke or something at first. It's still hard to put in words I guess."

But while words may fail, emotions run high over reports that mistakes by investigators delayed Southworth from receiving medical attention. "I don't know. I'm not a doctor," McLean said, "but maybe this would have been an assault investigation not a murder investigation, and so yeah, I'm kind of angry as far as that goes."

McLean isn't alone. Lexington Mayor Jim Newberry has also expressed concern about the emergency response. That's why a team independent from the police department will review the circumstances surrounding Southworth's death. In the meantime, friends and loved ones can only try to comfort each other as they grow to learn just how many lives were touched by Southworth. "Umi herself, for example, she's been in the country a decade or so, and so there's a whole, very tight-knit Indonesian community here, and there's not just the musician community alone, but the sort of subcommunities within that," McLean said.

Mayor Newberry says that independent review team will report back its findings to the public in the near future.

Wednesday night Southworth's neighborhood association will hold a candlelight ceremony at 9pm on Antique Drive. Also this Saturday the Lexjam II Unplugged, a musical event Southworth's daughter once played, will serve as a donation point for the Central Bank Umi Southworth Memorial Educational Fund. The event takes place from 1pm to 5pm at the Civic Center food court area.


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