Lexington community group calls for police to 'take action' after mall incident

Published: Feb. 11, 2019 at 6:16 PM EST
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A Lexington organization is calling for the police department to take action after a controversial incident inside Fayette Mall between two off-duty officers and a teenager.

Police say the teenager, 16, and officers got into a physical altercation Feb. 2 near H&M inside the mall after he became non-compliant.

Questions surround the incident due to video of the fight recorded and shared to social media by the the teenager's father.

While WKYT has seen the video, we are not showing it in this story. The video shows an officer appearing to strike the teen at the beginning with a closed fist, as the teen appeared to not cooperate with officers.

Cooperation Lexington, a community advocacy group, is taking a stance that the actions of the main officer seen in the video were inappropriate.

"Actions were malicious and not appropriate," Sarah Williams of Cooperation Lexington said. "He should've assessed the situation better, and the father was present...possibly having the conversation with the father."

Community activists say the teenager has autism, and it adds to their concern over the situation.

The police department's account of the incident is that the officers were working off-duty when mall security asked them to investigate a group of disorderly teens.

Lexington police said last week saying they are investigating the incident and are looking for additional witness videos.

But, no video has been made public of the moments leading up to the fight. Police say there is not any body camera footage because the main officer seen typically works an administrative role, so he is not required to wear one on off-duty assignments.

They say the other officer did have a body camera, but it didn't record what happened. Investigators are looking into why the camera didn't record the incident.

According to department policy, officers assigned body cameras are supposed to use them while on duty or working an off-duty assignment in uniform. While on duty, the camera should be on, but an officer has to activate it to record. If an officer does not activate the camera, he or she is required to document circumstances and an explanation.

Mayor Linda Gorton expressed concern about the incident on Twitter.

"Just like many of you, I am concerned about the incident at Fayette Mall Saturday involving two police officers and a juvenile," said Mayor Gorton in the tweet. "I have expressed my concerns to Police Chief Lawrence Weathers, who is investigating this incident. I know he is determined to find out all of the facts.

"Let’s give our police the time they need to do a thorough investigation. Partial videos, social media posts and rumors can be very misleading," she said. "After we find out all of the facts, we can determine how to proceed."

Cooperation Lexington hopes this situation prompts a change in policy.

"All officers interacting with the community need to have a body cam that is fully functional, " Williams said.

The organization is planning a demonstration tomorrow night at 7 p.m. outside of the circuit courthouse. Activists are calling on police to release all footage of what happened along with publicly acknowledging the officers involved. They are also calling for civillian oversight of police discipline among other demands.