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In-Depth: No arrests, citations so far in State Street destruction, community members question fairness

State Street
Posted at 8:26 PM, Sep 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-12 20:27:00-04

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — After the Wildcats' win against Florida on Saturday, University of Kentucky students and fans flocked to State Street for their traditional “celebratory disorder” of burning couches and destroying property. The lack of arrests has some community members questioning the equity of police enforcement in Lexington.

Two days after the incident on State Street, Lexington police issued a statement saying they are looking to pursue charges of property damage and criminal mischief charges for the individuals involved.

“Lexington police officers responded to the area of State Street and Crescent Avenue on September 10, 2022, after large crowds began forming in the streets following UK football’s win over Florida. Before officers arrived, a fire was started in the roadway and a vehicle was overturned.

Detectives from the property crimes section are reviewing video footage and are working to identify the involved parties, and "criminal charges are expected,” said Hannah Sloan, public information officer with the department.

They say additional updates will be provided and are asking people with information to contact the Lexington Police Department at (859) 258-3600. Anonymous tips can be submitted to Bluegrass Crime Stoppers by calling (859) 253-2020, online, or through the P3 Tips app.

However, their response is too little too late for community members like Jess Bowman, who feels it shows a disparity in response.

“If that happened in other parts of town and people were burning things in the streets, I don't think they would be taking selfies or greeted with like high fives and I think police would show up right then and there and disperse them. And by whatever means necessary,” said Bowman.

Bowman is a member of the group LPD Accountability. Several members of their group were arrested and formally charged by police for protesting in 2020.

University of Kentucky Police Chief Joe Monroe says they have sent information and video to the university’s code of conduct office, who will investigate, and charge students involved accordingly.

He says enforcement responsibilities for that portion of State Street are shared between them and Lexington Police.

“I think a lot of people notice it. I think that builds — I don't think anybody's saying ‘we want you to over-police college students.' I think they're just saying, ‘we can see how you're treating people differently and, and you're not being honest about the fact that it's happened.' There's always a reason that they didn't or they couldn't, but it never matches that with other events,” said Bowman.

Attorney Daniel E. Whitley Sr. shared similar sentiments. He represented Sarah Williams in her trial. She was arrested and charged with inciting a riot after protesting police brutality on the sidewalk in front of police headquarters during the summer of 2020.

“I watched the police department organize and use their department to weaponize and ruin pretty much their life. They said what she did was a riot. She laid down a sidewalk with others, and asked people to be quiet in recognition of African Americans killed by police. In her trial, I used the example of the UK students flipping over cars committing a felony, burning couches, committing arson in the street,” said Whitely.

Whitley says their actions show a repeated pattern of hand-picking who gets accountability.

“The question we have is, how do you decide in our community, who gets a pass? Who does not get the pass? And why do we, and I mean African American, people of middle-lower class, whatever it is for white, why are you treating these individuals different from the rest of us? And at what point in the community do we say we don't stand for that?” said Whitley.

Lexington police did not answer that question before this story was written. An officer mentioned in an article with the Herald Leader that night that officers were “tied up in their response." There were multiple instances of violence happening across the city that night.

The student whose car was flipped told LEX 18 he was from out of state and did not expect what happened. His father has created a GoFundMe for the ruined car.