Lawrence police release video of officer shooting man after traffic stop
photo by: Lawrence Police Departmen
Updated at 7:44 p.m. Monday
The Lawrence Police Department has released dashcam video of an officer shooting a motorist who attacked a fellow officer during a traffic stop that turned violent. The officer who fired now faces a felony charge, though she maintains she meant to draw her Taser instead of her gun.
The police department provided the video to the Journal-World Monday morning, in response to an open records request from the newspaper.
The shooting occurred about 5:15 p.m. on May 29, 2018, in the 100 block of West Sixth Street, at the north end of downtown Lawrence.
The video is from the patrol vehicle of an officer who initially pulled over Lawrence resident Akira S. Lewis, 35, for not wearing a seat belt. The footage shows the traffic stop escalating from there.
Officer Ian McCann walks up to the driver’s side window of Lewis’ SUV, introduces himself, says he’s assigned to a seat belt enforcement effort and that he pulled Lewis over because he saw he wasn’t wearing his seat belt.
Lewis begins to protest about being stopped, then proceeds to drive forward about a car length, causing McCann to jump backward away from the SUV. Lewis then stops, McCann walks back to the window and their conversation continues. Lewis refuses to provide his name or driver’s license, curses at McCann and repeatedly demands that McCann summon a supervisor to the scene.
“I need your driver’s license and your insurance card,” McCann says. “If you give me that, I will get you your citation. I will get you on your way. You’ll be out of here in 5 minutes or less.”
McCann explains to Lewis that if he fails to comply, he will be placed under arrest and taken to jail. He tells him he won’t call a supervisor, as the stop is blocking traffic at a busy time of day, and tells him he can file a complaint later.
“Go get your (expletive) supervisor, go get your (expletive) supervisor,” Lewis yells. “…Get the (expletive) out of my face, man, I’m telling you.”
McCann calls for backup to arrest Lewis, and Officer Brindley Blood arrives. The two officers try unsuccessfully to pull and push Lewis out of the SUV.
After a brief lull in the struggle, Lewis then jumps out of the vehicle at McCann, punches him, lifts him off his feet and flings him to the pavement in front of a car in the lane of traffic. Lewis then lands on top of McCann and punches him again.
In a matter of seconds, Blood runs from the other side of the SUV, draws her gun with her right hand from her right hip, stands over the two men on the ground, yells, “Taser-Taser-Taser,” and fires.
After Lewis cries out in pain, Blood can be heard saying, “Oh, shit, I shot him.”
The two officers handcuff Lewis and tend to his wound as additional officers — who’d been called for additional backup shortly before the shooting — run up.
Lewis, who admitted in court last week that he was not wearing his seat belt, has said he believes he was unfairly pulled over because he is black. He claimed McCann first passed two white motorists without seat belts on without stopping them, which McCann denies in the video. McCann and Blood are white.
The Journal-World first requested video of the officer-involved shooting several days after it occurred. The city denied that request, saying at that time the materials were “part of an ongoing investigation” and “criminal investigation records.”
The newspaper again requested the video last week, after it was played in Douglas County District Court during a hearing for Blood.
Blood, 36, is charged with aggravated battery, a felony, for allegedly recklessly hurting Lewis with a deadly weapon. Her attorneys argue that while Blood made a mistake she was not reckless and the charge should be dropped.
After seeing the video and listening to other testimony Wednesday, Judge Peggy Kittel is weighing whether to bind Blood over for trial on the charge. Kittel is scheduled to announce her ruling later this week.
Lewis’ attorney, Shaye Downing, said that though her client’s own related criminal case remains pending, she believed explaining his concerns was merited in response to the video’s public release.
“While it is easy to focus on Mr. Lewis’ reaction to perceived racial discrimination and the fact that he was engaged in a physical altercation with uniformed police officers, there are other concerning issues that warrant a serious discussion,” Shaye Downing wrote, in an email and accompanying statement to the Journal-World.
Downing said that prior to she shooting, police escalated a situation that “could have been easily de-escalated by any number of interventions,” instead denying Lewis’ requests to talk to a supervisor. She said Blood’s apparent mistake in drawing her gun instead of her Taser raised “serious concerns” about officers’ training on appropriate use of force and the weapons they carry.
“Officer Blood made no other attempt to intervene in the altercation and immediately resorted to lethal force against an unarmed man,” Downing wrote.
“It is unfathomable, or at least should be unfathomable to us all that an officer of the community, trained extensively to protect its citizens would be held to a lower standard. Officer Blood’s use of her firearm when the circumstances call for her to use her Taser by her own admission was not only negligent but reckless.”
Blood’s attorneys, Mike Riling and Tom Bath, said Monday that they would not comment on the video or Blood’s pending case. At last week’s hearing they suggested Lewis was lying about being racially profiled and actually refused to hand over his identification so the officer wouldn’t know he had outstanding warrants.
District Attorney Charles Branson said, via email from his assistant, that he also would not comment Monday as the case is still pending.
Blood — a rookie officer who’d only been on the streets on her own about two months before the shooting — resigned from the police department in late January. Previously she had been on paid administrative leave.
Lewis is charged with battery against a law enforcement officer, interference with law enforcement and driving without proof of insurance, all misdemeanors, and failure to wear a seat belt, a traffic infraction.
At the time of the traffic stop and shooting, Lewis had outstanding warrants for failures to appear in court in three older traffic cases, one in Douglas County District Court, one in Lawrence Municipal Court and one in Johnson County District Court, according to court records obtained by the Journal-World. The Johnson County Sheriff’s Office investigation into the Lawrence shooting confirmed Lewis’ driver’s license had been suspended since September 2017 with no eligibility date for reinstatement, and that he’d been ticketed six times since 2010 for driving without a valid license.
In the cases pending in Douglas County District Court, Lewis is free on a $2,000 personal recognizance bond in the battery case and $100 cash or surety bond in the traffic case, according to court records. His trial for those cases is scheduled in June before Judge James George.
Downing said Lewis has “permanent injuries” from the shooting and to date has not received assistance from the city for his medical expenses. She said that while Lewis’ cases remain set for trial they continue to “explore reasonable resolutions” short of being heard by a jury.
photo by: Douglas County Sheriff’s Office
photo by: Douglas County Sheriff’s Office
photo by: Lawrence Police Department