A dozen Lafayette residents gathered outside police headquarters on Friday morning, demanding the release of private surveillance footage that captured the shooting last weekend of a man said to be running away from police.
Chanting and holding signs with slogans like “Back Turned Don’t Shoot” and “WEED OUT BULLY COPS,” the protesters stood in front of the Lafayette Police Department building on University Avenue while community leaders inside met with police officials about the shooting of 23-year-old Tevin Lewis.
“We’re here today to make sure this video is released to the public,” said Denise Gobert, 28, a Lafayette activist in the Black Lives Matter movement.
The group on Friday morning delivered a public records request to release the video. They then had an impromptu meeting with the leaders of the department’s criminal investigations and patrol divisions, along with the department spokesman and the assisting officer to Chief Jim Craft, who’s been on leave this week.
The Rev. John Milton, of Imani Temple — who, along with civil rights attorney Carol Powell Lexing, is providing legal services for Lewis — said afterward that he and his colleagues were assured the department is working to produce answers soon. But police gave no indication about if and when they would release the video.
Milton said releasing the video immediately would quell rumors.
“That leaves nothing for people to draw conclusions. It limits our speculation,” Milton said.
Police Department spokesman Cpl. Paul Mouton said technicians are working to extract the video from the private surveillance device while taking care not to damage the equipment or its images. The FBI will then “enhance” the video for clarity, and all evidence will be presented to the 15th Judicial District Attorney’s Office for review, Mouton said.
The footage may be the only video evidence in the case.
Although the department has money in its upcoming budget to purchase body cameras, officers are still months away from receiving the equipment. Dashboard cameras are installed in each officer’s vehicle, but police cars on the scene that night were parked on Sonny Street; the shooting happened around the corner on Soulier Street.
Lafayette NAACP President Marja Broussard, who was in the meeting with police on Friday, expressed concern about the crucial video’s preservation.
“Something could happen to that video. I’m sincerely worried it’s the only copy,” Broussard said.
Meanwhile, Lewis was released from the hospital on Friday morning and booked into the Lafayette Parish jail on warrants for resisting an officer, possession of a firearm as a felon and illegal carrying of weapons. All the counts are related to his encounter with police that night.
Initial information in the shooting, as released by the 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 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.
Parish court records show from 2009-2010 Lewis pled guilty to two counts of marijuana possession and one count of simple burglary.
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. Another two men at the Sonny Street home were later arrested, one of them for marijuana and cocaine possession and the other on a bench warrant.
Although Broussard and Milton called a Tuesday news conference demanding the video’s release and also that an outside agency investigate the shooting, authorities on Friday had not given an indication on whether that request would be met.
Like Louisiana State Police, the Lafayette Police Department investigates its own officer-involved shootings.
Follow Lanie Lee Cook on Twitter, @lanieleecook, or contact her by phone at (337) 534-0825.