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Language barrier delays police investigation in Lexington

Posted at 5:10 PM, Dec 26, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-27 11:49:28-05

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — An investigation into the death of 23-year-old Bertin Garcia-Jimenez started to become complicated when the first wave of first responders did not include a Spanish-speaker.

“That has made it a little harder and slower for us right now to get officers that are fluent in Spanish so we don’t miss anything in the process of translating,” Lt. Chris Van Brackel told LEX 18 reporters on Wednesday.

The Lexington Police Department requires recruits undergo basic Spanish language lessons during police academy. It also keeps a list of which officers speak multiple languages fluently. When that fails, they turn to Language Line, a contracted service for interpreters.

“We’re going to try to rely on technology to fill that void because every day there’s leaps and bounds being made in that area,” said Chief of Police Lawrence Weathers. “Hopefully through our smartphone or through something else we’ll be able to communicate normally with anybody, no matter what language they speak.”

Weathers also pointed out that the investigation into the shooting of Garcia-Jimenez wasn’t hindered by the language barrier. Witnesses and officers simply had to wait longer than some other cases.

“I think it's just like everything else you do with the service industry. You have to explain what your limitations are and explain what you're working with,” he said.

Garcia-Jimenez died from a gunshot wound on Wednesday at 2 p.m.

Police have not released any other details and the investigation is ongoing.