Lennard Lewis Sr., of Baton Rouge, married the love of his life, fathered three children and worked tirelessly alongside his mother all while living with a bullet lodged in his brain from a shooting more than 20 years ago.
Lewis, 37, died at 12:53 a.m. Sept. 23. He was shot at Maplewood Street Park during a dispute on Friday, Nov. 13, 1992, authorities have said.
Lewis’ brother Emmanuel Osagie said his big brother’s ordeal forced him and his two younger brothers to grow up and become role models for younger family members although they were “bad kids” as youths.
“When that happened to him, my life as a 15-year-old boy, it wasn’t about me anymore,” Osagie said. “Going through that, it changed my perspective on life. It takes life from out of your control.
“The shock factor is like taking an 8-year-old to prison and seeing how they live.”
Lewis succumbed to a terminal seizure, but East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner Dr. William “Beau” Clark ruled his death a homicide in his official report.
“He had damage to the brain and developed a seizure disorder because of that brain destruction 20 years ago,” Clark said.
The Sheriff’s Office is trying to find the original case file to continue its investigation, spokeswoman Casey Rayborn Hicks said.
District Attorney Hillar Moore III said until an arrest is made, if an arrest is made, he cannot speculate on what charges, if any, will be filed and he will wait until the investigation is complete before he can comment further.
Family members said they still do not know the circumstances surrounding the shooting.
Lewis was 17 at the time and may have been shot by another juvenile, family members said.
Osagie, 35, said residents near the park called 911 after hearing the shots and someone in the park found Lewis.
He said he and his mother, Louise Thompson, 54, were watching television when police arrived and told them about the shooting.
Thompson said when medical personnel brought Lewis to Baton Rouge General Medical Center, the attending neurologist decided against surgery because of the risks involved.
Thompson said doctors also said Lewis probably would not have survived the surgery to remove the bullet, and they were not confident that they could find it.
Osagie said doctors told the family that if not for the cold conditions that night, Lewis would have bled to death.
“After the doctor did his evaluations, there was pretty much nothing we could do for him anymore,” he said.
Lewis was hospitalized for about three weeks after the shooting and at times, he was comatose, family members said.
When Lewis came out of his coma, he had to “relearn everything,” Osagie and Thompson said.
Before the shooting, Lewis attended Glen Oaks High School. He loved red beans and rice, especially his aunt Martha’s, and gumbo and anything but vegetables, his brother said.
Lewis also liked bowling and boxing and he played other sports, including football and basketball, outside school, Osagie said.
Lewis did not graduate from Glen Oaks, however, because of the shooting which occurred during his sophomore year.
“He wasn’t able to function in a regular school setting,” Osagie said.
About a year after the shooting, Lewis went to Baton Rouge Prepatory School, where joined a job-placement program and later became a janitor with the parish school system, Osagie said.
While a student at Baton Rouge Prepatory School, Lewis met Evelyn, the woman who would become his wife on Dec. 8, 2001.
The couple had three children, Crystal Lewis, 13; Lennard Lewis Jr., 11; and Brianna Lewis, 9.
Lewis struggled to find steady work because of his medical history, his brother said, and later worked as a janitor on different assignments with his mother.
Through vigorous physical therapy and rehabilitation, Lewis regained some of the mental capacity, memory and strength that he lost.
About 10 years ago, Lewis began having seizures, Osagie said. At first, Lewis’ seizures happened about once a year, but soon they increased in strength and frequency until his condition became so bad that he would have multiple seizures a day, family members said.
The last seizure claimed his life.
Now, two months after his death, Lewis’ fight and perseverance continue to motivate family members.
“Just learning that life can change for you no matter what happens,” Osagie said. “Even with bad stuff happening, something good can come of it.”
Osagie said he and his brothers — Johnny Thompson Jr., 32, a Marine Corps drill instructor and Anthony Thompson, 27, who works in sanitation and at McDonald’s — learned life was bigger than their childhood needs.
They chose a different path than the one they were on, he said.
“When adversity happened and we can walk away from it, you can change any situation you went through and are going through,” Osagie said.