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DECEMBER 8, 2015

 

Chris Jobe  LOUISA, KY. -- After a battle for the ages in Kentucky over the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to allow gay marriage in every state, Lawrence County has its first one ever.

With little aplomb, Brooke Nicole Maynard, 19, of Louisa, Ky. and Amber Michelle Belcher, 19, of Isaac Park Rd., Louisa, Ky. were issued a marriage license on October 24 in County Clerk Chris Jobe's office.  It is not known if the couple were actually married in a church or civil ceremony.  

The marriage license was not announced and the only way The Lazer staff learned of it was in the process of doing our bi-weekly court report.

A spokesperson in Clerk Chris Jobe's office confirmed that the license was issued but did not know which clerk in the office issued it. Jobe was out of town this morning attending the inauguration of new Ky. Governor Matt Bevins, a Republican who was supported by Jobe.

When the law was first changed Jobe vowed to not accept gay marriage applications - for one day - and then decided to follow the law. But he has worked under the radar with as many as 62 other county clerks in the state and key lawmakers who vow to pass legislation that would preclude the licenses to require a clerk's name on them among several other changes.

Jobe is the current President of the Kentucky County Clerks Assn.

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis has led the fight in Kentucky against gay marriage and has become a national figure in doing so.

Jobe has said that homosexuality is against his religious and moral beliefs and that he will not personally issue such a license.

DECEMBER 6, 2015

Activities take place in Main Street Park...

Big turnout for Louisa Christmas Parade...

 

Click pic for video/slideshow

Louisa KY -- The weather was chilly, but just right for getting in the Christmas spirit Thursday night, as the 3rd Annual Louisa Christmas Parade took place in downtown Louisa.

The theme this year was 'The Wild West,' which produced a lot of fun floats and photo opportunities.

Activities in Main Street Park began at 5:00 pm as Christmas music played in the background and included a couple of vendors, free hot chocolate, an old west photo scene, and a chance to win a 5 ft. stocking full of toys; a $250 value. Money raised from the proceeds of ticket sales will go toward the Huntingtons Disease Foundation.

A tent was set up where children (and adults) could have their picture made with Santa and Mrs. Claus, the Grinch, and movie character, Malficient. County Judge, John Osborne and volunteer, Frank Spradilin, made and served hot chocolate, which was a welcomed treat in the nippy night air.

CAM 0058Folks lined the streets as the parade began at 7:00 pm, with the anticipation of an appearance by Santa Claus. Mayor Harold Slone was the Grand Marshall, and the LCHS Marching Band and ROTC performed. Local VFW and American Legion members participated, as did area churches, officials, and organizations. Even Smokey the Bear was there, on board a fire truck. Finally, Santa himself, brought up the rear, concluding the 2015 parade, and signaling the beginning of the Christmas season.

After the parade, the gift giveaway took place back at the park, where kids received gifts which were donated by local businesses.

Float contest winners were: 1st place ($150)-- Walnut Grove Church, 2nd place ($100)-- Meades Branch Church, and 3rd place ($50)--MCCC Home Place. Local business windows will be judged on Dec. 18.

Christmas Parade Committee Chairman, Sherry Burchett, thanked those who helped with the event as well as everyone who came out to the parade. "On behalf of the committee, we wish everyone a very Merry Christmas," Ms. Burchett said.

DECEMBER 1, 2015

COLLINS' FAMILY CAN'T GET ANSWERS

BILLY COLLINS DEATH ONLY JUST ONE OF THE 1,036 AMERICAN CITIZENS WHO HAVE DIED IN POLICE RELATED SITUATIONS IN THE U.S.A SINCE JANUARY 1, 2015.

Editor's Note: This is the latest version of this story written by Lazer reporter Wade Queen that was taken off the post THIS AFTERNOON when it was discovered that a Lawrence County grand jury had indeed met on Nov. 12 and failed to hand down an indictment in the Billy Collins, Jr. case. Our staff has been working all day in order to get the story correct, but then we found out what the problem was. Nobody was notified. Not a single member of Collins' family knew the grand jury was going to meet and still didn't until they read The Lazer this morning. Here is what we have found out along with Wade's original information that correctly compared this case to the people vs. the police attitude that is festering every day in America:

SIGN OF THE TIMES?

Jamar ClarkOn November 15, 2015, a 24 year old black male, Jamar Clark, a resident of Minneapolis, Minnesota, was fatally shot by two Minneapolis City Police officers, when Clark allegedly interfered with emergency responders helping an assault victim. Activists and some witnesses claim that Clark was unarmed and handcuffed when he was shot, although police deny that he was handcuffed. But the Minneapolis Police Department did admit Jamar Clark was unarmed.

While there have been large scale protests and a large number of civil disturbance arrests in the Minneapolis area (and also the incident where two alleged white supremacists shot five Black Lives Matters protesters); what makes the controversial shooting stand out even more is that Jamar Clark's death marked the 1,000th person to die in a police related incident in the United States since January 1, 2015.

And in the following two weeks since Clark's death; an additional 36 people have died in situations involving law enforcement agencies across the country. The total tally is 1,036 as of November 29.

* In a comparison, 29 Americans have been killed by terror attacks around the world so far in 2015. Also for a related comparison, 39 American police officers have been murdered and 26 American police dogs have been killed in the U.S. so far in 2015 as well.

* In West Virginia, 11 people have died in police incidents this year, ranking the state with its population of 1,850,326 for a total rank (per capita) of 6 / 51 states (including Puerto Rico); and a numerical rank total of 29 / 51.

* In Ohio, 32 people have died in police incidents this year, ranking the state with its population of 11,594,163 for a total rank (per capita) of 30 / 51 states (including Puerto Rico); and a numerical rank total of 7 / 51.

* In Kentucky, 17 people have died in police incidents this year, ranking the state with its population of 4,413,457 for a total rank (per capita) of 17 / 51 states (including Puerto Rico); and a numerical rank total of 24 / 51.

Of those 17 deaths in Kentucky for 2015, one of those deaths happened six months ago to the day in Louisa.

The Louisa story...

On Friday night, May 29, 2015 at approximately 9:30 pm, Billy J. Collins Jr., 56. of Louisa, passed away during a violent altercation while in police custody at the Louisa Police station after being arrested for multiple charges after causing a disturbance near the Lawrence County High School senior graduation ceremony.

Billy Collins JrA couple of hours earlier before the deadly outcome, Sergeant Steven Wilburn, of the Louisa Police Department, was attending the Lawrence County High School Graduation when he observed a vehicle being operated by Billy Collins drive off the roadway, into a grassy area and continued into a ditch before getting stuck.

Sergeant Wilburn made contact with Collins and determined he was operating the motor vehicle with a suspended Kentucky Operator’s License and did not have proper vehicle insurance. Collins also began acting in an inappropriate manner by yelling and cursing toward individuals attending the graduation ceremony.

Collins was arrested and charged with Driving on a Suspended Kentucky Operator’s License, Failure to Maintain Insurance, and Disorderly Conduct.

Collins was then transported to the Louisa Police Department, where he allegedly began refusing to comply with all officer commands. Sergeant Wilburn called for assistance when Collins became combative, striking Sergeant Wilburn multiple times.

Collins then fled into the foyer area of the Louisa Police Department and barricaded himself inside the facility.

Additional officers with the Louisa Police Department and Lawrence County Sheriff’s Department responded to the scene to assist. A member of the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Department deployed his agency issued taser through a small crack in the door, striking Collins. The taser was ineffective and Collins removed the probes. Sergeant Wilburn was then able to gain access to the foyer through a secondary door. After failing again to comply with the commands of Sergeant Wilburn, he deployed his agency issued taser striking Collins. The taser was effective, but Collins continued to resist and would not comply with officer’s commands.

Officer’s on scene continued struggling with Collins and issued strikes with closed empty hands and also with their agency issued asp as Collins remained combative. After the struggle, Collins was restrained and placed in a seated position.

Officer’s, quickly requested EMS respond to the Police Department and prior to their arrival Collins began exhibiting signs of a medical emergency. Netcare EMS provided medical assistance and transported Collins to Three Rivers Medical Center where he later died.

An autopsy was conducted on Billy Collins on Saturday, May 30, 2015 at the State Medical Examiners Office in Frankfort, KY. The final report was pending while waiting for additional examination and was supposed to have been available to the public once complete.

But Collins' son, also named Billy, said today that he called the state medical examiner's office today and was told the autopsy results were still not available and it could be several more weeks before it is released.

"I don't see how in the world the grand jury could have determined anything about the case without the autopsy results," Billy Collins, 29, of Louisa said. "I have called and called and always get the same answer - it is pending."

Prior medical issues were reviewed and examined as part of the autopsy and state police investigation, which revealed Billy Collins had reportedly suffered a heart attack two weeks prior to the arrest, which led to him having heart surgery and stints put into his heart but the police were not aware of his health problems

At the time of Collins death, results of the preliminary investigation did not indicate criminal actions involving any law enforcement officers.

Family members were told that the death remains under investigation by the Kentucky State Police, with Detective Christopher Carter the lead investigator. But the younger Collins said today that Carter does not work at the Ashland Post any longer and he does not know who ended up doing the investigation.

After Collins death, Louisa Police Department Chief Greg A. Fugitt released an official statement, quoting as saying: "The cause of death is still being investigated by the Kentucky State Police. The Louisa Police Department is fully cooperating with the Kentucky State Police while they complete their investigation of this unfortunate event". "Just so we do not interfere or impede with the ongoing investigation, any questions about the incident can be answered by the Kentucky State Police". Fugitt stated.

Fugitt then said in his final remark: ""Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Mr. Collins during this time".

Billy Collins had long history of problems with police. Between April 2008 and final arrest in May 2015, he had been arrested 15 times for a total of 33 criminal charges and bench warrants.

One of Collins criminal arrests was a notorious incident in July 2012 when he when got out of the passenger side of a pickup truck and ran up to then Louisa mayor Ted Preston at his home and threw hot coffee on the mayor and ran. He later said the mayor had refused to have breakfast with him and that's why he did it. Preston was not seriously injured.

Collins was arrested by Louisa officer Steven Wilburn (the same officer he was arrested by and later assaulted in his current 2015 fatal arrest) on 3 charges and related to the incident with Mayor Preston

It has now been six months since Billy Collins death; and there has not been one letter, not a peep of word of a final conclusive investigation report by the Kentucky State Police, or any other agencies for that matter. It has been three weeks since the grand jury meeting and still no word from KSP, Commonwealth's attorney Anna Melvin's office or any other official, Collins said.

The KSP had promised to release the body camera videos of the altercation within a few weeks of Collins death, which the State Police, as well as the Louisa P.D. and Lawrence County Sheriff Department said existed, but those videos have also not been released. The younger Collins said today that he was indeed promised by the KSP that family members could view the video, but when he called the next day, he was told that there was a chance a civil suit may be filed and therefore he could not view the video.

This has led to speculation by the Collins family and close friends, (and also some in the general local community) that either the body cameras were never turned on; or were turned off before or shortly after the violence erupted, or possibly the cameras malfunctioned, 

The Collins family has hired a Pratt & Tobin, a large law firm from St. Louis, Mo. and a civil suit is being prepared, Billy Collins said.  "My lawyer (Greg Tobin) about had a fit when I told him today the grand jury had met and failed to issue an indictment in the case and did not even notify any of us." Collins, who has a sister who lives in Louisa, said. "Mr. Tobin has visited Louisa for the case and will "probably return in the next day or so to help sort out the problems."

Billy J. Collins Jr. was born in Clearwater, Florida to the late Billy Collins Sr. and Judith Caldwell Collins. He was preceded in death by one brother, Jeffery Collins. He was survived by one son, Billy Joseph (Kayla) Collins of Louisa, KY, three daughters, Amanda (Timmy) Adkins of Louisa, KY, Kimberly Collins of Summerville, SC, and Shelly Collins of Louisa, KY, six grandchildren, one sister, Donna Johnson of Georgia, and two brothers, Mitch Collins and Mike Collins both of Virginia.

 

LPD officers were issued body cams earlier this year and have been using tasers even longer.

 

 

 

DECEMBER 2, 2015

Skeens is 'mum' on where the video and grand jury transcripts are

Assistant Commonwealth Attorney Tony Skeens LOUISA, Ky. -- Commonwealth's Attorney Anna D. Melvin's office refused to comment or provide any information on the grand jury investigation concerning the death of Billy Collins, Jr. at the hands of Louisa Police officers earlier this year. A person who answered the phone in Melvin's office said there will be no more information released.

"The 'no true bill notice' is all we are going to give out and before another question could be asked, she hung up the phone.

The Collins case is beginning to draw widespread attention, especially in Lawrence Co. since it was learned yesterday that family members of Collins, 56, who died in police custody after being tased by members of the Louisa Police Dept six months ago, were stonewalled by KSP officers as well as Melvin's office and assistant CA Tony Skeens.

Circuit Clerk Jodi Parsley provided the 'Report of no true bill and order of dismissal'  to The Lazer this morning and all it says is DEATH INVESTIGATION - "Insufficient evidence was presented to warrant an indictment."  

Lt. Aaron Martin of the KSP's Ashland Post said this morning that his department has been told to refer all inquiries to the Commonwealth Attoney's office.

Collins family members were upset yesterday when they found out the grand jury had already met and thrown the case out without notifying them. Collins' daughter said the family has repeatedly asked for information from the state police and were told that the case was ongoing and they couldn't release any information. She said the family did not know of the grand jury meeting, which took place three weeks ago on Nov. 12 and 13, until they read it in The Lazer.

Central in the case is a body cam video allegedly made by LPD officers during the incident. The family was originally told by KSP officials that the video would be shown to family members first and then the grand jury. But that hasn't happened and now that the criminal case is essentially over, the family members want to know where the video is and why they can't see it.

Also the grand jury made its decision without the availability of autopsy reports from the state medical examiner's office which were still not complete yesterday -- after six months.

A Mr. Hazelett who answered the phone in Melvin's office earlier this morning, said the grand jury action is a matter of public record but a records request would have to be made in Frankfort to obtain a copy of the tape and the grand jury transcripts.

He said that a copy of the grand jury report is available at Ms. Parsley's office. He said Mr. Skeens was running an errand and would call back in "5 or 10 minutes" but the callback never came. The receptionist in Melvin's office is the one who hung up on a Lazer reporter (me) at just after 1:00 PM. 

 

NOVEMBER 30, 2015

FUEL TANKER TRUCK CATCHES FIRE WHILE PARKED NEXT TO GROUND FUEL TANKS;

REQUIRES THREE FIRE DEPARTMENTS FROM TWO COUNTIES TO SUPPRESS DANGEROUS FLAMES

Just after 12 P.M. Thanksgiving day, Lawrence 911 received a call of a fuel tanker fire that had caught on fire at the Peach Orchard Mayo 7 coal mine on Route 2033 in southern Lawrence County

While area residents (including yours truly, were loading and stuffing their stomachs on Thanksgiving; local fire fighters stopped a major disaster that could have led to a tragic number of casualties were it not for their efforts.

Just after 12 P.M. Thanksgiving day, Lawrence 911 received a call of a fuel tanker fire that had caught on fire at the Peach Orchard Mayo 7 coal mine on Route 2033 in southern Lawrence County.

The Cherryville Fire Department immediately responded to the scene, and once the units arrived, they discovered the situation was in an even more precarious explosive danger, as the flaming fuel tanker was parked next to several large ground fixed fuel storage tanks.

Cherryville hastily called for assistance from the Lomansville Fire Department, but they were then alerted that the Lomansville crews were out on a call from an hour earlier with Netcare EMS to an ATV accident on Lost Creek Road (luckily the ATV driver, Rex Ferguson, received only minor injuries).

Cherryville then requested assistance to Martin County for the Inez Fire Department. Inez fire crews arrived to the the mine soon thereafter, along with the freed up Lomansville fire fighting units. The Lawrence County Emergency Management Agency helped direct the operations of the fighting the truck fire.

All three fire departments spent the next several hours extinguishing the flames and suppressing the intense heat from spreading the fire and igniting the ground fuel tanks.

The were no injuries suffered in the extensive fire fighting operations at the coal mine.