Affidavit: Rookie Lawrence police officer said she meant to tase man at traffic stop but shot him instead
photo by: Nick Krug
Story last updated at 7:01 p.m., Sept. 6
As Akira S. Lewis grappled with a police officer he’d just slammed to the street, another officer stood behind Lewis and announced, “Taser-Taser-Taser.”
Then the backup officer fired the weapon she had in her hand — but it wasn’t a Taser, it was her gun.
“Oh (expletive),” the officer reacted, “I shot him.”
That description of the May 29 Lawrence police shooting comes from an outside law enforcement agency’s viewing of dash-cam video in its investigation of the traffic stop that escalated into a physical fight and, ultimately, the shooting. The Johnson County Sheriff’s Office prepared an affidavit with its findings, which the Journal-World requested and then received Thursday from Douglas County District Court.
Officer Brindley D. Blood, who graduated from the police academy just six months earlier, has been charged with a crime as a result of the incident.
She faces one count of aggravated battery, a felony, for allegedly using a gun to “recklessly cause bodily harm” to Lewis. Blood is scheduled to appear in court on the charge Sept. 27.
According to the affidavit:
When interviewed by Johnson County sheriff’s investigators, Blood said that after she pulled the trigger a single time, she heard Lewis yell “Ow,” then looked for the wires that should have come out of the Taser.
But there weren’t any.
“She said at this point she realized ‘I shot, shot him, I pulled my firearm instead of my Taser,'” investigators wrote in the affidavit.
Blood is right-handed, and she carried her gun to the right of her belt buckle and her Taser to the left, according to her description of her duty-belt configuration. The Taser was a yellow-colored model, and her gun was a Sig Sauer P320.
After being shot, Lewis stopped fighting the first officer and fell to the street. Blood holstered her pistol and, along with the first officer, handcuffed Lewis and immediately began first aid for the gunshot wound on his lower back as other officers arrived on scene.
photo by: Sara Shepherd
The shooting occurred about 5:15 p.m. May 29 in the 100 block of West Sixth Street, near downtown Lawrence.
The whole incident started about 10 minutes earlier, with a traffic stop for a suspected seat-belt violation that allegedly escalated into Lewis physically attacking Officer Ian McCann. Lewis has been charged with multiple misdemeanors in that part of the incident.
The affidavit prepared by the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office includes a detailed description of the entire stop and the brawl that ensued between Lewis and McCann.
According to the affidavit:
McCann was working on special assignment that day as part of the national “Click It or Ticket” seat belt enforcement campaign, which the Lawrence Police Department was participating in.
He told investigators that in a line of cars on Sixth Street, he saw a dark blue Ford Excursion with the driver-side window down and an “occupant” not wearing a seat belt.
After McCann did a U-turn and pulled over the SUV, the driver — later identified as Lewis, whom McCann said he’d not encountered before — contested being pulled over and repeatedly refused to give his name or provide his driver’s license or proof of insurance, video shows.
photo by: Nick Krug
McCann spent about 3 minutes debating with Lewis, including explaining that if he didn’t cooperate, he’d be charged with obstruction and could “end up going to jail for a seatbelt violation.” Lewis still refused.
In addition to there being heavy traffic all around, McCann told investigators that he estimated Lewis was about 6-foot-2 and about 250 pounds — much larger than himself — and called for nonemergency backup to help arrest him.
Blood took the call.
Lewis braced himself inside his SUV and the two officers failed in their attempts to physically force him out, including with McCann pulling from the driver’s side and Blood pushing from the passenger side.
McCann had called for more backup, but before it arrived Lewis launched out of his SUV, began punching McCann, then lifted him all the way off the ground and slammed him face-down on the street, the affidavit says.
That’s when Blood positioned herself to fire her Taser at Lewis, she told investigators.
She said she could not explain why she grabbed her gun instead of her Taser.
“She stated she ‘honestly can’t even give you an answer as to how I ended up with my firearm in my hand,'” the affidavit said. “‘… It wasn’t until after I pulled my trigger that I realized it wasn’t my Taser.'”
Lewis was taken to a hospital in stable condition and was later released.
He is charged with several misdemeanors: battery against a law enforcement officer, interference with law enforcement and driving without proof of insurance. Lewis also is charged with failure to wear a seat belt, a traffic infraction.
Lewis’ first appearance in court on his charges is scheduled for Sept. 26.
Lewis said, in a previous statement released by his attorney, that he believes he was discriminated against after he was pulled over and asked for a police supervisor to come to the scene.
Lewis is black, and Blood and McCann are white.
Citing heavy traffic on Sixth Street, where Lewis was stopped, McCann did not call a supervisor and told Lewis that he could file a complaint later, according to the affidavit.
Following the incident, the Journal-World found that Lewis had two outstanding warrants for failing to appear in Douglas and Johnson county courts in traffic cases, in which he was charged with driving without a license and other violations. He has been ticketed six times in the past 10 years for driving without a valid license.
The Johnson County Sheriff’s Office’s background check of Lewis confirmed the warrants, that his license was suspended, and that he’d had six suspensions since 2010, according to the affidavit.
The Journal-World also requested all dash-cam, traffic camera or other images of the incident, but the city of Lawrence denied the request, saying such recordings were considered criminal investigation records and that the investigation was ongoing.
Johnson County detectives noted that they interviewed 16 civilian witnesses about the incident but didn’t summarize those interviews in the affidavit because the sequence of events was “clearly depicted in the recording from Officer McCann’s in car video camera.”
Lawrence police officers are not equipped with body cameras, though some officers will begin testing them soon in preparation for a department-wide rollout.