Lawrence activist arrested at scene of police standoff with shooting suspect, accused of compromising safety of officers and others
photo by: City Of Lawrence/ Youtube
Updated at 5 p.m. Monday, May 22
A Lawrence man known for filming and confronting police during arrests and offering angry criticism at local government meetings was arrested early Saturday morning at the scene of a standoff between police and a shooting suspect.
Phillip Michael Eravi, 53, was arrested on suspicion of felony interference with law enforcement around 2 a.m. in the 1900 block of Heatherwood Drive, according to the Douglas County Jail booking log.
Police said they told Eravi to move out of an active and dangerous crime scene, but Eravi did not comply.
“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,” Sgt. Drew Fennelly told the Journal-World in an email Monday.
Eravi declined to comment to the Journal-World “as I am under a criminal charge at this point.”
Eravi operates a YouTube page where he highlights his interactions with police officers and comments he makes at Lawrence City Commission and Douglas County Commission meetings. Eravi purports to be a journalist focused on police and city administration accountability. He has been asked to remove himself from multiple meetings after officials said he violated meeting rules about decorum and relevance. He has also been cited by police for trespassing at the city-run support site for people experiencing homelessness.
As the Journal-World reported, police were engaged in a standoff on Heatherwood Drive that began around 11 p.m. Friday after officers responded to a report of gunfire being exchanged between a 29-year-old and a 48-year-old.
Upon arrival at the scene, officers identified a 29-year-old man, who reported that a known individual had tried to shoot him. The man, who was not injured in the incident, told police that he used his own firearm to return fire.
Upon further investigation, officers determined the suspect was inside a house in the same block. Officers established a perimeter around the house and, using a loudspeaker, attempted to convince the suspect to surrender, but got no response.
After several hours, police entered the house and arrested Joshua Evan Townsend, 48, of 1951 Heatherwood Drive, around 4 a.m Saturday on suspicion of attempted murder in the second degree, as the Journal-World reported.
Just before 2 a.m., police were attempting to control the scene, and a 53-year-old Lawrence man, later identified as Eravi, walked into an area police were trying to keep clear as it was in the direct line of fire from the residence, Fennelly said in an email to the Journal-World on Monday.
The man was given several orders to leave the area but refused, Fennelly said. An officer then attempted to physically remove him. The man became verbally and physically confrontational, causing several officers to leave their protected positions, exposing them to the potential line of fire from the residence during the standoff, Fennelly said.
“Officers attempted to place the man in custody, but he actively resisted arrest. The man was placed into custody and removed from the scene,” Fennelly said.
The department declined to release additional information about the standoff, and Fennelly said that a report has been given to the Douglas County District Attorney’s Office for prosecution.
Eravi was later released on a $750 cash bond Saturday morning.
On Monday, Townsend was charged in Douglas County District Court with one felony count of attempted murder in the second-degree for shooting at a man and one felony count of aggravated assault with a handgun for threatening the same man, according to charging documents.
Townsend’s bond was reduced by Judge Blake Glover from $700,000 to $50,000 cash or surety. Glover said the bond amount seemed unusually high and that there are people currently on bond with more severe charges who have lower bonds.
Townsend’s attorney, Dakota Loomis, said that he has represented Townsend in the past and Loomis does not believe Townsend is a threat to the community. Loomis said that as he understands it, the alleged victim is a neighbor of Townsend’s and that neighbor also fired shots at Townsend and it remains to be seen if Townsend was actually the aggressor in the situation.
Townsend is next scheduled to appear in court on May 31 for a status conference. Charges had not been filed against Eravi as of Monday afternoon.