Family speaks out about Wilkerson death
Mar. 7—ASHLAND — The family of Clarence Wilkerson, who died in Ashland Police custody Saturday, called for justice Monday for their relative.
A son, a brother and a friend, the 34-year-old man "died like a dog in the street," his mother, Sherri Ford, said.
"They could have rendered him aid, but they didn't," she said. "I'm not saying it would have been a different outcome, but I think the things could've turned out differently if they did."
Video taken at the scene shows APD officers surrounding Wilkerson and dragging him into a cruiser, despite him stating he couldn't breathe and barely being able to stand on his own. A bystander taking the six-minute video said it appeared Wilkerson was going pale.
Wilkerson, of Ashland, died Saturday after being taken into custody by Ashland Police in the area of Boyd Street. KSP said Wilkerson was wanted on a warrant. A look into Boyd County Court records show Wilkerson had a bench warrant stemming from a 2017 misdemeanor public intoxication/second-degree fleeing case.
On Tuesday, 100 relatives, friends and mourners came out to Central Park for a candlelight vigil at the baseball diamond. La Juan Wilkerson, Clarence's older brother, called for peaceful protest and asked all to continue the fight.
He said his little brother's funeral will be held at Christ Temple Church at 1 p.m. Friday and he asked for supporters to show up to a peaceful demonstration Sunday at Broadway Square from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.
At the end of the ceremony, supporters released balloons into the sky.
During Monday's interview, La Juan Wilkerson said he didn't want to bring race into the situation — Clarence Wilkerson was Black, while all the officers involved were white. He said the way police treat suspects in custody affects people across the board.
"They're doing it to whites, Blacks, drug addicts, women, poor people, rich people, it happens," Wilkerson said. "Look at what happened up at the jail — those were white people who died."
Larry Ford, Sherri's husband, added, "It's not just the fact that he's a Black man. It's the fact that he's a human being. If they had any kind of kid, would they say this is right? They would say this is wrong! Why does this man have to die like this? Why couldn't they call some one to help him? Right is right and wrong is wrong."
La Juan Wilkerson also said he didn't want to equate the situation to high-profile cases nationally like Eric Garner, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tyre Nichols, Freddie Gray or Ahmaud Arbery. He said this wasn't a case of brutality, but of negligence.
The breaking of the silence came as Kentucky State Police announced preliminary results from the autopsy showed no trauma causing his death. KSP said Clarence Wilkerson's death "could possibly be related to preexisting medical conditions."
Sherri Ford said Clarence did have a heart condition that required a catheterization in his late 20s.
La Juan Wilkerson said his family was told Clarence was left with the impression that only one officer was involved and that Clarence was found to be having medical issues when he arrived at King's Daughters Medical Center.
According to La Juan Wilkerson, doctors told him his younger brother was barely breathing and had a no pulse when he arrived at the ER. They started questioning the official version of events after viewing the video.
"They lied to us. I saw they did not render help to my son; they're standing there grinning and you got people across the street telling them he's turning white. It was a sad thing, they did him like that. They tried to drag him to the car like he was walking. He didn't have to go like that," Sherri Ford said.
Since the video of Wilkerson's arrest was shared on social media, many have called for justice and offered support to the Wilkerson family.
A GoFundMe page has been created to cover Wilkerson's funeral expenses and any lawyer fees the family may incur. Visit the following link: https://gf.me/v/c/4mh/justice-for-clarence-wilkerson.
La Juan Wilkerson said the family has appreciated the outpouring of support and are now working with folks to try to "get justice for C." But he's not hopeful to see any change around here.
"I know these people aren't going to be laid off for negligence, that's what we want — wrongful death, negligence. Somebody on that department has to pay. The thing we know for a fact, it isn't going to happen," La Juan Wilkerson said.
Wilkerson continued, "But what we're going to do, we're going to make our voices loud and we're going to speak up for Clarence and we want this video for the world to see. Because no matter — you don't have to be beat, hit or this, that and the other, these cops still let him die."
Ashland Police Chief Todd Kelley confirmed Monday that all involved officers were placed on administrative leave Saturday, per department procedure.