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Lexington sees deadliest month in years, what's left to do about it?

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Posted at 8:04 PM, May 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-26 23:28:59-04

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Tuesday's triple homicide was the 11th homicide in May, an alarming and unpreceded reality community members fear will not end.

On May the first, 40-year-old Ricky Williams Jr. was shot and killed. A day later,13 -year-old Deon and 5-year-old Skyler were stabbed to death. Five days later, 20-year-old Amaya Taylor Sandifer and James Bost Jr. were shot and killed. Ten days after that 42-year-old Eric Boone was killed in broad daylight. Four days after that, 34-year-old Todd Kenion was shot and killed. On May 24, 29-year-old Malcolm Long. Just a day later, 65-year-old Lisa Wilson, 42-year-old Bryonny Wilson, and a 38-year-old Bronwyn Wilson were all shot to death.

The culminating sense of loss is a kind of grief that weighs on an entire community, regardless of whether they knew the victims or not.

"There's families involved in that. Nothing compares to how rough and how devastating it is to them," said Lexington Police Chief Lawrence Weathers.

This May marks the deadliest month in Lexington since police have been sharing crime data. Police believe five of the homicides were due to domestic violence. Nine of the victims died of gun violence.

City Response

At a time when everyone is blaming someone, city leaders say they are doing all they can.

Mayor Linda Gorton says she mourns for the victims and their families and understands their frustration. Her office is focusing on long-term solutions. She says the ONE Lexington initiative is a long-term approach, but a lot of their efforts help mediate current youth conflict.

"The interesting thing about crime is people want to fix it today. They want to do it today. And that's unrealistic," said Gorton.

"I'm just here to tell you this is a long-term fix. And I'll give you an example. All the people who leave a gun in an automobile or a vehicle and leave the door on that. Now, that is one small piece of this, but we know that many of our shootings are related to getting in a car, taking a gun that's easily available, and using it. We've got a lot of pieces like that that need attending to this is going to take our whole community."

Gorton says she's having conversations about mental health with professionals in the community and other stakeholders.

When we asked if she felt she was doing all she can, Gorton said she does.

"I have focused on this issue every single day," said Gorton. "And I know, when you're in the position of the mayor, whether it's good or bad, you get blamed for everything whether we even touched it or not. And that's okay. I understand that. I understand people are angry. They're upset. People have got to be part of the solution. And we are working every day on it. We've put millions of dollars of resources into this issue."

What's left to do when local leaders feel they're already doing all they can?

Weathers says he'll continue to shout about the need for information from the community.

"I don't need them to provide us everything, but they need to provide us whatever it is they have so we can work through that and figure out what's going on," said Weathers.

Weathers says even what people may feel are the smallest pieces of information could be helpful to them.

Community members, family members, or even friends can send tips anonymously to Bluegrass Crimestoppers http://bluegrass.crimestoppersweb.com/sitemenu.aspx?ID=710&.

Many in the community have cited concern about a 'hot' summer, which means a summer of violence fueled by hot weather.

"Every summer is hot. That's just the way it is. The community as a whole has to be the one to put a lid on it to keep it from boiling over. By the time it gets to us- the problem is already out there," said Weathers.

Funding Solutions?

The mayor proposed increased funding for police to add community officers and more funding for One Lexington.

While she can't change her budget, the urban county government can. Many have proposed including funding and more resources for mental health and domestic violence.

LPD gets help from New Vista. But more times than not, officers are filling many different roles.

"We see domestics, we see drugs, and we even see some mental illness. I think we would be remiss to focus on something else when that is staring us right in the face," said Weathers.

Police Morale

Already short-staffed, Lexington police officers are having to serve multiple rules as negotiators, peacemakers, drug specialists, and even mental health professionals.

"Our police are dedicated. They know we're short-staffed, but that's not going to keep them from doing their job," said Weathers. "We're going to leverage every tool that we can to offset some of the criminal activity that we're seeing."

Chief Lawrence Weathers says sometimes morale can be low because of all they're dealing with, and he worries about his officers.

"In talking to our officers, I think the morale is good. I think if we can get our staffing numbers up, it would be better. But we try to take care of our people," said Weathers.

Here's a link to apply to be a part of LPD: https://www.lexingtonky.gov/index.php/police-application