Driver shot by police is a Lawrence resident and father of 6, still recovering in hospital

photo by: Nick Krug

A detective with the Johnson County Sheriff's office walks around a Ford Excursion that was driven by an individual shot by a police officer at the intersection of Sixth and Vermont streets on Tuesday, May 29, 2018.

The man shot by police this week in Lawrence is a local resident and a father.

While investigators have not publicly released the man’s name, the Journal-World has confirmed he is Akira S. “Nell” Lewis, 34, of Lawrence.

Though Lewis remains hospitalized, he is not in police custody at this time, according to his attorney, Shaye Downing, who said she spoke to Lewis Thursday and was retained to represent him.

Downing said Lewis’ family was waiting to share more information about his condition but that she anticipated they would release a statement when they are ready.

The outside agency investigating Tuesday’s officer-involved shooting, the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office, shared some information about the encounter in a news release on Wednesday.

However, in another news release issued Thursday, the agency outlined some procedural matters of the investigation, but offered no further information about what transpired before the shooting.

photo by: Contributed photo

Akira S. “Nell” Lewis

The Journal-World requested more information — including why Lewis was ordered out of his car after being stopped for seat-belt violation; how the encounter with police escalated into violence; and more about the nature of the injuries he suffered — but Lt. Paul Nonnast of the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office declined to answer additional questions Thursday, citing the ongoing investigation.

Johnson County’s independent investigation into the incident will continue “until all leads are exhausted,” according to Thursday’s news release.

“Once this investigation is completed, all reports will be forwarded to the Douglas County District Attorney’s Office for review,” the release said. “Another news release will be forthcoming at the conclusion of the investigation.”

Investigators also have not released the names, ages or the number of years on the force of the two Lawrence police officers involved in Tuesday’s incident. Both are on administrative leave.

Lewis is a father of six, according to people close to him, newspaper reports and court records. While he has lived here for years, Downing said he’s originally from Mississippi and that most of his relatives live out of state.

Court records show that Lewis had a history of repeat citations for traffic violations, including driving without a license.

He had outstanding warrants in two separate traffic cases at the time of Tuesday’s incident.

A bench warrant was ordered in January of this year after Lewis failed to appear at a December hearing in a Douglas County traffic case, District Court records show. The case was initially filed in July 2017, and Lewis had twice requested and was granted several more months to get his driver’s license reinstated, get insurance and get his vehicle registered, according to documents in the case.

The other bench warrant was ordered in November 2017 in Johnson County District Court after Lewis failed to appear for court in a traffic case there, according to court records. In that case, he allegedly had a registration violation and had his license suspended.

In addition to several other resolved traffic cases in the area, Lewis has one recent felony conviction in Douglas County.

He was charged with aggravated battery for allegedly hitting a man with a baseball bat in January 2016. The incident occurred as his apartment building was being evacuated due to a fire, and police told the Journal-World at the time that Lewis believed the man he hit was somehow responsible for starting the fire.

Lewis, after pleading no contest, was convicted and sentenced to probation, according to court records. Under terms of his probation, he was ordered to complete anger management and a cognitive thinking program, which he did, and his probation expired in August 2017.

This week’s shooting occurred about 5:10 p.m. Tuesday, after a Lawrence police officer assigned to a special seat-belt enforcement campaign pulled over Lewis in the 100 block of West Sixth Street. At some point, a second officer arrived at the stop.

“Once the additional officer arrived, the driver, who was uncooperative, was lawfully detained and repeatedly instructed to exit the vehicle but failed to comply,” according to the first news release from the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office. “The driver resisted arrest and a struggle ensued.”

During the fight the officer was knocked to the ground and repeatedly struck by the driver, according to investigators. The backup officer fired a single shot, striking the driver, though it’s not clear where on his body he was hit.

Lewis was taken into custody at the scene, and officers rendered first aid until medics arrived, investigators said.

It’s still not clear how the stop escalated into a fight or whether any other weapons were involved, including a knife that Lawrence police said was located at the scene. Investigators have not answered those questions from the Journal-World or questions about the reason Lewis was “detained” and whether warrants were a factor.

There are a number of entities looking at this case.

Johnson County’s involvement is in accordance with a mutual aid agreement put in place about six months ago at the request of Lawrence Police Chief Gregory Burns, who took the helm of the department in October 2017, according to Thursday’s news release.

The agreement established the framework for an independent investigation of officer-involved shootings by Lawrence police should the need arise, the release said. In accordance with that framework, Johnson County was contacted and got involved after the shooting on Tuesday.

The Douglas County District Attorney’s Office has said it is monitoring progress of the ongoing law enforcement investigation and will provide an update when it receives the case to review.

Internally, the Lawrence Police Department will conduct an investigation to determine whether or not policies and procedures were followed by its officers, according to Thursday’s release. The department’s Office of Professional Accountability was notified of the incident, leading to those officers being placed on administrative leave in accordance with department policy.


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