Officers testify at trial of arrested Lexington KY protester

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Sarah Williams is arrested by Lexington Police officers during the United Campus Workers of Kentucky and Black Lives Matter protest in Lexington, Ky., on Saturday, July 11, 2020.

Sarah Williams is arrested by Lexington Police officers during the United Campus Workers of Kentucky and Black Lives Matter protest in Lexington, Ky., on Saturday, July 11, 2020.

In day two of the trial for a Lexington activist and protester who was arrested during racial justice protests in 2020, prosecutors called multiple Lexington police officers who were on-scene at the protests.

Sarah Williams, one of several who was arrested and charged during the protests, is on trial this week and facing five charges: inciting a riot, resisting arrest, possession of drug paraphernalia, disorderly conduct, and possession of marijuana. They are all misdemeanors.

Tuesday, County Attorney Larry Roberts questioned officers in an effort to set a scene of Williams’ behavior and actions during protests from May 31 to June 13 two years ago.

Roberts focused on June 13, 2020, when a “die-in” protest took place outside of the Lexington Police Department headquarters on Main Street. A “die-in” is described as individuals lying on the ground as a protest in appearance to be dead.

The first witness on Tuesday was officer Zakary Ridener. He discussed specifics relating to Williams’ charge of resisting arrest.

Ridener said Williams was pulling her arms and centering her body. He said she was taken to the ground. He said she was “non-compliant for a while,” but in the report he filed, he stated it was a “period of several seconds” before the officer had to restrain her to the ground for non-compliance.

When Williams’ attorney, Daniel Whitley, questioned Ridener in court Tuesday, he asked if the officer heard Williams make any verbal threats to the police. Ridener confirmed he did not. He said she was arrested for inciting a riot because investigators got information that Williams and her sister, April Taylor, were “coordinating efforts for arrest-able actions.”

Whitley asked Ridene for specifics on what the arrest-able actions were during the “die-in” demonstration.

“What violence did she ask people to engage in during the die-in (on July 13)?” Whitley also asked.

“None that I am aware of,” Ridener replied.

Ridener added that Williams was saying to “shut s**t down” during the protest, and that could be “wagered” as an act or threat of violence. He also made mention of protesters cutting zip ties on barricades outside of police headquarters to participate in the die-in protest.

Whitley reiterated that after cutting the zip ties, the protesters were just lying on the ground.

“I hate to keep making this point, but they just laid down on the ground, and asked to lay in silence in honor of George Floyd,” Whitley said.

He asked the witness why they were charged with trespassing outside of headquarters when they were laying in silence outside of the public’s sidewalk. “Then police said ‘Get off the public sidewalk where you are laying in silence?’” Whitley said.

Officer Ridener replied, “That’s correct.”

“And because they didn’t get up they were arrested for laying on the public ground in silence,” Whitley said.

“They were arrested for trespassing, that’s correct,” he responded.

Whitley asked Ridener why protesters were charged with trespassing outside of police headquarters on public sidewalks. Ridener confirmed that police told the protesters to get off the sidewalk. Ridener said they were arrested for trespassing after they didn’t get up.

Roberts, the county attorney, presented pictures of the barricades that were positioned outside Lexington police headquarters with no trespassing signs on them. Roberts also presented bodycam footage of Williams behind the barricades.

Whitley also questioned Ridener about Williams’ drug paraphernalia charge. When police searched Williams, they noted in her arrest citation that what they found what was described as a “crack-pipe.” The officer admitted that later, and upon further examination, it was not a crack-pipe, and in fact looked to be a broken vape cartridge.

Whitley asked if the officer knew that placing “crack pipe” in the citation would be made public.

The officer said at the time, he did not know the arrest citation would be subject to the public.

“During your training you aren’t made aware that citations are public record?” Whitley replied. Ridener replied, “I know that now.”

Whitley also confirmed with Brian Maynard, the assistant chief of the Lexington Police Department, that Williams was not a suspect for any damage to police property during the protests. Damage was done to cruisers, the doors of the police department headquarters, and the bay doors of headquarters.

Judge John Tackett Tuesday morning also finalized matters that began on Monday when a subpoena was issued for April Taylor, Williams’ identical twin sister. Taylor, who was charged over the protests but has already resolved her case, immediately invoked her Fifth Amendment rights. Her attorney, William Davis, asked Tackett to void the subpoena.

Tackett agreed, and voided the subpoena. Both Davis and Whitley asked that Taylor not be allowed in the courtroom, which Judge Tackett ordered.

Williams’ trial is expected to continue throughout the day on Tuesday and resume Wednesday.

This story was originally published July 12, 2022 1:30 PM.

Taylor Six is the criminal justice reporter at the Herald-Leader. She was born and raised in Lexington attending Lafayette High School. She graduated from Eastern Kentucky University in 2018 with a degree in journalism. She previously worked as the government reporter for the Richmond Register.

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