Chanting “mental illness is not a crime” and “autistic lives matter,” protesters marched in the rain Saturday afternoon in support of a 19-year-old who was seriously injured by a Lexington police cruiser.
Liam Long suffered a brain bleed, a fractured nose and shoulder and multiple lacerations that required stitches after being hit by the cruiser March 30 while experiencing a mental health crisis. His family said Long is autistic and that he remains hospitalized and can’t walk without help since the collision.
The group LPD Accountability hosted the rally downtown because “we still are in search of the full truth” about what happened to Long, said community organizer April Taylor.
Lexington police released body-camera video Friday night that shows Long being hit by the cruiser after he ran into the street while being pursued on foot by a police officer. Police said he had a knife and had threatened police and his case worker.
Taylor said she believes there is more body camera footage from the incident that might be relevant.
“That is body camera footage that we would like to have access to,” she said.
But she acknowledged to the group gathered for the rally that the release of the video this week is “unprecedented.”
“We appreciate the release of body camera footage,” she said.
Taylor said LPD Accountability has been calling for changes to the police collective bargaining agreement that would require body camera footage to be released within three days of a critical or use of force incident, which she said “would be a huge step towards transparency and accountability.”
Long’s mother, Kendra Long, attended the rally but did not comment on the body camera footage released by police.
She said she was “humbled for everybody to show up today, especially in the rain, for Liam.”
And she said she was excited “to show this to Liam, when he understands enough.”
The group marched from the downtown courthouses to police headquarters to try to obtain a blank copy of the form the Lexington Police Department uses for filing formal complaints against officers.
Formal complaints of misconduct can result in discipline including termination, while informal complaints typically result in counseling, Taylor said. The form on the police website for citizen comments is not the form for formal complaints, and Taylor said the police department should not be able to “screen” whether a formal complaint is filed.
She said members of the group have tried unsuccessfully to get a blank copy of that form for a while.
“We don’t know if that will be used in this particular case, but without a copy of the form, we’re unable to make use of it,” she said. “Because of the way we’ve been stonewalled about accessing this form in the past, we feel like it’s really important to get a blank copy of that form now, so we have it should we need it.”
The form must be notarized, but Taylor said citizens should be able to fill it out on their own and then sign it at the police station.
“It’s time for them to stop obscuring the process like citizens are not capable of understanding the process and empower citizens to actually be able to stand up for themselves and report when things are not done correctly,” Taylor said.
When the marchers arrived at the police station Saturday afternoon, the front doors were locked, and an officer who came outside to talk with the group said it would be necessary to return on a weekday.
“Citizens in the community deserve to have all forms and paperwork,” Kendra Long said afterward. “We should all have access to any form, and clearly we were denied.”