NAACP calls for investigation into police response to child killings; LPD defends lawsuits

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) — The Lexington-Fayette County branch of the NAACP issued a news release Friday night questioning whether Lexington police were following state statutes and the department’s own policies, which resulted in the stabbing death of two children earlier this month could have prevented.

Nikki James, 43, is accused of stabbing her own children. She has pleaded not guilty to two counts of murder.

13-year-old Deon Williams and 5-year-old Skyler Williams were both pronounced dead at the hospital on May 2, 2022 from multiple stab wounds and lacerations, according to the Fayette County Coroner’s Office.

Citing media reports, the NAACP says Lexington Police were called to the family home at Parkway Manor Apartments on Rogers Road twice in the day before the children were killed. The NAACP alleges that Nikki James made one of the calls to the police because she was having a mental health crisis and the children’s father, who lives in Cincinnati, requested a “welfare check” for the children, leading to a second visit on April 1. may have led .

The NAACP says the Lexington community deserves a public statement from the Lexington Police Department about whether their officers have followed state laws and guidelines.

ABC 36 News reached out to the Lexington Police Department for a response.

The department says officers were asked to respond to the 400 block of Rogers Road on May 1, 2022 for a wellness check, not a mental health emergency. Police say the caller was not the children’s mother, Nikki James, or their father. According to police, the caller was a third party who knew the family and had recently been in contact with the father. Police say the caller was told that James said she was part of a cult and feared for her life. According to police, the caller also stated that there were two children in the house.

Police say when officers arrived at the apartment they spoke to James at the apartment door. She is said to have stated that she did not know the caller, did not know why the call was made and that she did not need any help.

Police say both officers who responded to the welfare check are trained by the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT). The 40-hour certification training course teaches signs and symptoms of mental illness, medications to effectively treat mental illness, verbal de-escalation skills and active listening reinforced through role-play scenarios, and familiarization with available support services.

Police say while officers spoke to James they saw no evidence that additional mental health support was needed. The caller told police there were two children in the home, stating only that police said James feared for their lives, not the children.

The NAACP also asked Mayor Linda Gorton and the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council to conduct an investigation to determine whether the Lexington Police Department violated state statutes and the department’s own policies regarding their interactions with the most vulnerable citizens , children and people with mental illnesses of the city has violated disease.

ABC 36 News reached out to the mayor’s office Friday night for a response. We didn’t get an immediate response; However, city spokeswoman Susan Straub responded to the Lexington Herald-Leader in an email, saying this was an open case and the mayor’s office had no comment outside of police response.

The NAACP says in its press release that state law and Lexington Police Department guidance state that when dealing with juveniles in “noncriminal situations,” officers may take a child into protective custody and keep that child in protective custody without parental consent or another person.” exercising custody or supervision when the officer has reasonable grounds to believe that the child is in imminent danger of death or serious physical injury, or if the person exercising custody or supervision is unable or unwilling to protect the child.”

The guidelines say officers should consider requesting assistance from officers with specialized training in dealing with mental illness or crisis situations. In addition, the guidelines state that if an officer has “reasonable cause to believe that a person is mentally ill and constitutes a danger or imminent danger to himself, family or others if not restrained, the officer : to take the person into custody and transport the person, without undue delay, to a psychiatric facility for an examination to be carried out by a qualified psychiatrist.

The NAACP further said: Based on our review of media reports, Kentucky statutes and LPD policies, the following questions remain about the interactions between LPD officers prior to the deaths of two innocent children in Lexington:
1) Have LPD officials seen a mother having a mental health crisis that should have led to her existence?
Transport to a psychiatric facility?
2) Have LPD officials seen a mother unable to protect two children?
3) Have LPD officers who responded to the 911 calls prior to the children’s deaths requested help from someone else
trained psychologist?
4) Have LPD officials contacted the known government agencies and community resources who could have done so?
removed the children from the house before they died?

Here is the full response from the Lexington Police Department:

On May 1, 2022, officers were asked to respond at Block 400 of Rogers Road for a health check, not a mental health emergency. The caller was neither Nikki James (the mother) nor the children’s father. The caller was a third party who knew the family and had recent contact with the father. The caller was told that Ms James said she belonged to a cult and feared for her life. The caller also stated that there were 2 children in the house.

When officers arrived, they spoke to Ms James at the apartment door. Ms James explained that she did not know the caller, why the call was made and that she did not need any help.

Both officers who took part in the welfare check are trained for the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT). This is a 40 hour training course that teaches:

  • Signs and symptoms of mental illness
  • Drugs for the effective treatment of mental illness
  • Verbal de-escalation skills and active listening reinforced by role-play scenarios
  • resources available

While speaking to her, they saw no evidence that additional mental health support was needed. The caller stated that there were 2 children in the house and only said Mrs James feared for her life not the children.

In response to NAACP questions and disclosures received from the media. Below are our answers to your questions:

  1. Officials have not seen anyone with a mental health crisis, nor have they had “reasonable reason to believe that any person is mentally ill and poses a danger or danger to themselves, their family or others if not restrained.”
  2. Officials did not see a mother unable to protect her children.
  3. Officers who responded did not request help from other officers, both officers who responded were CIT trained.
  4. Officials did not approach other government agencies to remove the children because they failed to comply with conditions that would require such action.

We value our community partnerships, including with the NAACP. You can always contact us if you have any concerns or questions.

Deon and Skyler Williams

Nicky James

Detention Center Nikki James/Fayette County

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