Lexington police release body-cam video of autistic teen hit by cruiser

Karla Ward
·6 min read

Lexington police released body-camera video Friday night that shows a teenager being hit by a police cruiser.

Liam Long, 19, 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.

At an urban county council meeting Thursday, Long’s family members pleaded with the city for the police department to release footage that would help them understand what happened that day.

In a 13-minute video news release, police shared video footage of the collision and the foot pursuit leading up to it, as well as audio of a 911 call from a man requesting that officers check on Long because of threats to his case worker. They also released two lengthier body-camera videos on YouTube.

Police said Officer Nicolas Gray, who has worked for the police department since 2015, was driving about 40 mph and had his emergency lights on when his cruiser hit Long in the Garden Springs area.

“Due to the actions of Long entering the roadway Officer Gray was unable to avoid a collision,” police said in the news release. “Officers immediately began rendering aid, called Emergency Care and continued care until their arrival.”

Police said they went to the 2100 block of Larkspur Drive at 5:22 p.m. March 30 because Long’s case worker had contacted them, reporting that Long “made vague threats” that included harming one of his case workers.

In the 911 call, the man can be heard telling dispatchers that he had a “client” who was having “a mental health crisis or a psychotic break.”

“He’s been telling people that he’s part of the Mexican Cartel,” the man states.

The dispatcher told the caller that she would have an officer go check on him.

Police said in the release that Officer Caleb Wade, who has worked for the police department since 2017, encountered Long in a parking lot on Larkspur.

Police said that when Long saw Wade, he said, “No, no, you are not going to do this,” and walked away.

“Keeping a safe distance from Long, Officer Wade attempted to calm Long down stating he only wanted to talk,” police said in the news release. ”Eventually, Long turned around pulling a knife from his waistband. While holding the blade up in threatening manner to Officer Wade, Long stated that Officer Wade would have to kill him first.”

“Listen, we’re not gonna play with this whole knife thing, OK?” Wade says in the body-cam video. “I want you to put it down for me, OK?

“Buddy, we just want to talk to you, Liam,” Wade says.

A screen capture from Officer Caleb Wade’s body camera footage shows Wade talking to Liam Long before he was hit by a police cruiser March 30.
A screen capture from Officer Caleb Wade’s body camera footage shows Wade talking to Liam Long before he was hit by a police cruiser March 30.

As more officers arrived, Long turned and ran toward a fence, police said.

In Wade’s body-cam footage, Long can be seen jumping the fence as Wade chases after him.

Police said in the news release that “Wade explained that due to Long’s current mental state, verbal statements to the case worker, and making threats with the knife which was still in his hand, he felt Long was a danger to himself and others and needed emergency detention.”

As Wade pursued Long, he can be heard on the video saying, “Liam, if you don’t stop, I’m going to Tase you,” and then “Liam, you’re going to get hit” as Long runs back into the street and the cruiser comes into view, striking him.

In Gray’s extended body camera video released by the police department on YouTube, he can be heard telling other officers after the collision that he flipped on his lights when he saw Long running.

“I was going to pull kind of up in front of him and get out with him,” he said.

But, he said, Long “just darted right out.”

“I tried to, like, swerve,” Gray said.

Gray’s cruiser swerves to the left in the video.

He can be heard calling for an ambulance after the crash, saying “Start an EC. He ran in front of my car. He’s been hit.”

The officers ran to Long, as Wade said, “He’s got a knife. Roll him over.”

Wade knelt on the pavement next to Long and can be heard telling him, “Stay with us, man. Everything’s gonna be alright. Keep breathing.”

He directed another officer to keep people in the area back and reported to the dispatcher that Long had a head injury.

The footage shows Gray kneeling at Long’s head at one point, saying “He just ran right in front of my car.”

“It’s gonna be alright,” Wade responded. “He ran out in the street, ok. Just calm down.”

In background audio, bystanders can be heard saying, “We watched the whole thing. He hit him on purpose.”

“It’s ok, just ignore them,” Wade said.

Police said that the day before the collision, they went to a business in the Gardenside area and took a terroristic threatening report involving Long. Police said the manager said an “erratic customer,” later identified as Long, “assaulted another customer in the business who had left before an officer arrived” and “threatened to kill the manager upon Long’s return.”

Police said that at 5:07 p.m. March 30, just before they responded to the call about Long’s threats to the case worker, they were called back to the business because Long had returned, but when they arrived, Long had already left.

Police said those officers found Long “on Maywick Drive near Vicksburg Road where he acted erratically and hostile towards officers. Because of having previous contacts with Long, the officers recognized that he appeared to be having a mental health crisis. The officers reported Long was uncooperative and fled the area on foot after threatening to kill the officers. Knowing the home address of Long, officers did not pursue on foot and chose to go to that location to follow-up.”

As the officers from that incident arrived on Larkspur, Long began to run from Wade, police said.

The Lexington Police Department’s Collision Reconstruction Unit investigated the collision, and Lexington Police Chief Lawrence Weathers has asked the Kentucky State Police Critical Incident Response Team’s Collision Analysis Section to conduct a review.

Long’s mother, Kendra Long, attended a rally hosted by LPD Accountability downtown Saturday afternoon.

She said she was “humbled for everybody to show up today, especially in the rain, for Liam. I can’t thank everybody enough.”

And she said she was excited “to show this to Liam, when he understands enough.”

Liam Long
Liam Long

Long did not comment on the body camera footage released by police.

Chanting statements including “mental illness is not a crime” and “autistic lives matter,” 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.

“The Lexington Police Department has stonewalled making this complaint form available to the public,” LPD Accountability organizer April Taylor told the group before they marched.

The front doors to the police station 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.”