City residents and some black community leaders on Tuesday called for an expedited and independent investigation into the weekend incident that led to a Lafayette police officer shooting and injuring a man as he ran from police.
Three neighborhood residents who said they saw the shooting spoke through tears at a Tuesday news conference called by the NAACP to showcase statements from witnesses and to spell out a list of demands in the shooting’s investigation.
“You’ve got community people feeling they’re scared of the cops,” Imani Temple Pastor John Milton said. “I don’t think anybody (outside of the community) understands the complexities and intensities of the problem.”
Witnesses on Tuesday said they saw several police officers exit their vehicles with guns drawn and saw Tevin Lewis running from them. The witnesses said they saw him fall down in a ditch after he hopped a fence to try to escape capture and claim they saw an officer shoot him in the back.
“I can’t sleep right now because of this. It plays over and over in my mind,” said Sheila Carter, a neighborhood resident who described the events she said she saw unfold that night.
Initial information in the shooting, as released by the Lafayette Police Department three hours after it happened, stated officers on Saturday evening went to a house in the 100 block of Sonny Street to arrest a man wanted in city court on OWI. Of the five men standing in front of the house, one of them — Lewis — ran from the officers.
As Lewis, 22, ran toward Soulier Street, the officer chasing him said he saw a pistol and ordered him to drop it. When he didn’t, police said, the officer fired at least twice and struck him. Police said they found a semi-automatic handgun tied to the man’s arm.
The man wanted on OWI — 37-year-old Robert Stewart, of Lafayette — was arrested on the warrant, along with a count of illegal concealment of a firearm and possession of a stolen firearm after police found him with a semi-automatic handgun.
Two other men police said were staying at the same house as Stewart were later arrested. Arthur Veals, 34, was booked on counts of marijuana and cocaine possession; Malik Charles, 19, was booked on a bench warrant.
Lewis on Tuesday remained in intensive care at a Lafayette hospital, police spokesman Cpl. Paul Mouton said, noting the department is waiting on information on the bullet’s trajectory into the man’s body before disclosing information on his injury.
“It’s premature to release that information,” Mouton said.
Lewis’ mother, Ann Granger, said Tuesday she has not been able to see her son.
“I haven’t heard anything toward his condition. Nobody has called me. Doctors. Nothing,” she said.
Mouton said Lewis isn’t allowed visitors because he is in police custody, awaiting arrest on warrants for carrying a concealed weapon, resisting an officer and felon in possession of a firearm.
“It’s a security risk not only to our officers that are at the hospital but specifically for the employees at the hospital itself,” Mouton said.
The officer who fired the shots, who’s been on the police force for five years, has been placed on paid administrative leave as is normal practice in such cases, Mouton said.
Meanwhile, the Police Department’s own officer-involved shooting team is handling the investigation — an issue discussed with distrust at the Tuesday NAACP meeting.
“We do not believe the Police Department should be investigating itself, whether it has a shoot team or not,” said Milton.
Of the demands laid out at the meeting, Milton said an outside agency should investigate the shooting, including performing eyewitness interviews, and that the officer who fired the shots should be identified publicly.
He also said the city-parish administration, including Police Chief Jim Craft, should be transparent in releasing information. He also called on the Police Department to release private surveillance video seized from a homeowner in the shooting. If the video does not prove Lewis posed a threat, they want Lewis released and the officer fired.
“This man’s right to live matters,” Milton said.
Milton also said several men were handcuffed and detained in relation to the shooting but were never arrested, which Mouton confirmed. Milton called for a federal civil rights investigation into that incident.
At the Tuesday meeting of the Lafayette City-Parish Council, which happened at the same time as the NAACP press conference, District 4 City-Parish Councilman Kenneth Boudreaux urged the public to remain patient while encouraging law enforcement to provide rapid answers to the public concern. He asked for a “good, full, complete” report, asking for an update within 30 days.
“Give those in the field the opportunity to do their jobs, and if at such time their jobs do not produce the appropriate results, well then we can do what needs to be done,” Boudreaux said.
Advocate writer Richard Burgess contributed to this report. Follow Lanie Lee Cook on Twitter, @lanieleecook.
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