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On the night he killed Karon Blake, Jason Lewis told police he was in bed when he heard a noise coming from outside. It was almost 4 a.m., and the longtime D.C. government employee feared someone might be trying to break into his house, so he grabbed his gun, a .40 caliber Smith & Wesson M&P.
Lewis walked onto his front patio and told police he saw “youngsters” standing by a white vehicle across the street. He yelled, “Hey! What are y’all doing?”
Lewis said that one of the kids “bee-lined” toward him at a full sprint, and then he fired. That person, who would turn out to be Karon, yelled, “I’m a kid! I’m a kid!” and collapsed on the sidewalk. Lewis called 911 and started performing CPR on Karon. But the 13-year-old was later pronounced dead at Children’s National Hospital.
Lewis, an employee of the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation, is now facing second degree murder charges, which were filed more than three weeks after the Jan. 7 shooting. He told police that night that he did not want to harm anyone and questioned why Karon “ran right toward him.” He initially told police that he only fired twice.
But surveillance video footage and three .40 caliber bullet casings collected from the scene call some of Lewis’s initial account, as recited in an arrest affidavit, into question.
In the arrest affidavit, Metropolitan Police Department Detective S.F. Brackett cobbles together the deadly encounter from surveillance video footage and witness interviews.
Surveillance footage shows a gray Kia Sportage back into an alley near Lewis’ home on the 1000 block of Quincy Street NE between 3:30 and 4 a.m. (The vehicle was later reported stolen from 10th Street NE.) Two people get out of the Kia, video shows, and approach multiple cars on the block, including Lewis’ Audi A8L. One of them is Karon.
Lewis is seen on one of the videos exiting his home, and one of the individuals runs from the parked car toward the alley and the stolen Kia. The Kia begins to flee in reverse, and video footage appears to show Lewis firing for the first time at the vehicle in the alley.
It’s this shot that MPD Chief Robert Contee says is most disturbing.
“My biggest grievance was the first shot fired was at someone sitting in a vehicle who was not an immediate threat to the person who fired the shot,” Contee says during a press conference following Lewis’ arrest. “That in itself raises issues. What if that person got hit by that … bullet, or an innocent person, or [it] went into somebody’s house?”
Contee says the shot is not consistent with training for people who have concealed carry licenses, as Lewis does.
Another surveillance video angle shows that in the single second after Lewis fired the first shot, Karon, who had been running toward the alley, changes his direction before he disappears from view. A different camera shows Karon running in front of Lewis’ home as Lewis fires at him while moving backward into his patio.
Karon is heard on camera repeating, “I am sorry. I am sorry,” “please don’t,” and “no.” He also yells, “I am a kid,” and “I am only 12,” numerous times, according to the detective’s affidavit.
The video then shows Lewis walk back into his patio, exhale, and go back inside his house. One minute later, he exits his house again; police arrive minutes later as he performs chest compressions on Karon.
Lewis spoke with the detective on the scene briefly before he was taken to MPD’s homicide branch. There, he declined to say anything further, according to the affidavit, and asked for an attorney.
The arrest affidavit indicates that police spoke with a person who was inside Lewis’ home on the night in question and later with that individual’s attorney.
The witness initially told police that after Lewis went downstairs to investigate the noise, they watched from the bedroom window and saw one person run toward the residence and two others run toward a vehicle parked in the alley, which they called the “getaway car.” The witness told police that they heard two gunshots, and that Lewis came inside and told them to call 911.
During a second interview, with an attorney present, the witness said they observed two individuals standing on the driver’s side of Lewis’ Audi parked across the street. They said they heard Lewis yell “hey!” and said one of the people standing by the car “jetted” toward “Jason,” according to the affidavit.
The second person ran toward the alley while the “getaway car” started to flee in reverse. They said they heard two gunshots and that they heard the first shot when the person was about five feet from Lewis.
Detectives recovered three .40 caliber bullet casings and saw “suspected bullet damage” to the stolen Kia on the driver side. Det. Brackett writes in his affidavit that the evidence makes clear that “Lewis fired one shot at the Kia Sportage as one individual ran toward it.
“After Lewis shoots the Kia Sportage located in the alley east of his property, approximately one second after this [muzzle] flash is depicted, then [Karon] begins to run away from the Audi A8L,” Brackett writes.
It took MPD three weeks to gather evidence and request charges against Lewis, who remained free until he turned himself in Tuesday morning. Police resisted demands from Karon’s family, members of the community, and D.C. councilmembers to identify Lewis. Contee said doing so could jeopardize the investigation, and he rebuked those who spread misinformation on social media, incorrectly identifying who they believed to be the shooter.
Ward 5 Councilmember Zachary Parker continues to call on MPD to release the body camera footage from officers on the scene that night. He says Mayor Muriel Bowser denied his request to view the footage, but a new law that is not yet in effect will give him access as the councilmember representing the ward where the shooting took place.
“During press conferences, it often appears as though city officials are lecturing residents about how they can do things differently,” Parker says. “But I think it’s the case that MPD can also improve.”
Parker says several questions remain in his mind, including about the interaction between police and Lewis at the scene, about MPD’s decisions leading up to the arrest warrant, and what took so long to bring charges. Contee has said it’s not unusual to take a month to file murder charges, but Parker says he disagrees. “It begs the question about MPD’s homicide closure rate, which is not that great,” Parker says.
He adds that several details released Tuesday would have been great to know weeks ago, such as Karon’s pleas of “I’m a kid,” and the fact that he might not have been running at Lewis.
Lewis made his first appearance in D.C. Superior Court Tuesday afternoon, and Judge Judith Pipe ordered that he be held without bond. Pipe says there is no evidence that Lewis had a reasonable fear for his life, nor is there an indication Karon was armed or that he came onto Lewis’ property. She also says in court that Lewis “could have taken steps to avoid the use of deadly force, and he did not do that.”
Pipe says that Lewis is an “upstanding individual” and has done a lot to benefit the community. But, she says, he became the aggressor when he started firing and he “loses his right to self defense at that point, even if someone turns and runs towards him.”
Family and friends who knew Karon have described him as a kid who always had a book under his arm, and who was fiercely protective of his younger sister.
In speaking with Karon’s mother, Parker says she wants to move (Karon attended middle school across the street from where he was shot) so that her other children don’t have to walk down the same sidewalk where he was killed. “I would like to see the city support them on that,” Parker says.
Sean Long, Karon’s grandfather, says the arrest represents some measure of justice. “I’m glad the police and the attorneys did their job,” he says. “But this is just the beginning. I’d like to get real justice for my grandson. You can’t go around killing nobody for messing with a car.”
This story has been updated with comment from Zachary Parker.