Lawrence activist charged with felony after allegedly interfering in police standoff with attempted-murder suspect
photo by: City Of Lawrence/ Youtube
A Lawrence activist appeared Thursday in Douglas County District Court to face a charge of interference with law enforcement in connection with an armed standoff between police and a shooting suspect.
The activist, Phillip Michael Eravi, 53, was charged with one count of interference with law enforcement. The charge is a low-level felony with a sentencing range between five and 17 months in prison if convicted, depending on Eravi’s criminal history.
Eravi stood silent Thursday as he appeared in court with defense attorney Angela Keck. Judge Sally Pokorny asked if Eravi wanted to hear the charge read aloud. He declined, and Pokorny scheduled a status conference for June 21.
The charge is in connection with an incident that began around 11 p.m. on May 19 in the 1900 block of Heatherwood Drive in western Lawrence. Police were engaged in a standoff with Joshua Evan Townsend, 48, of Lawrence, who is alleged to have exchanged gunfire with a 29-year-old man in the area.
Townsend was charged with one felony count of attempted murder in the second-degree and one felony count of aggravated assault with a handgun, as the Journal-World reported. Townsend is currently free on a $50,000 bond. He is next scheduled to appear in court on July 12 for a status conference.
Officers were taking cover and using a loudspeaker to communicate with Townsend when, just before 2 a.m., Eravi walked into an area that police were trying to keep clear because it was in the direct line of fire from the residence, Sgt. Drew Fennelly with the Lawrence Police Department said after the incident.
Eravi was given several orders to leave the area but refused, police said. An officer attempted to physically remove him, but Eravi became verbally and physically confrontational, causing several officers to leave their protected positions, exposing them to potential gunfire during the standoff, Fennelly said.
“Unfortunately, he chose not to leave, placing everyone in the area in jeopardy, and drawing vital personnel’s attention away from an active, dangerous event with an armed suspect,” Fennelly told the Journal-World.
Eravi bonded out of jail later that day for $750 cash, according to court records.
The Journal-World reached out to Eravi after the incident, but he declined to provide additional comment due to the pending criminal charge.
Eravi, who purports to be a journalist focused on police and city administration accountability, operates a YouTube page where he highlights his interactions with police and the comments he makes at local government meetings. He has been asked to remove himself from multiple public meetings after officials said he violated rules about decorum and relevance. He has also been accused of trespassing at the city-run support site for people experiencing homelessness.