Family of man fatally shot by police talks about his life

By  | 

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KSPR) - Springfield's police chief addressed the circumstances surrounding the fatal shooting of a man by officers. James Lewis was shot and killed early Sunday near Silver Springs Park.

The chief said in a news conference that three officers are on leave, which is standard procedure, after they shot, or shot at, James Lewis, who died at a hospital later Sunday.

On Tuesday, Lewis' mother, sisters, and brother spoke out.

"I want to see him, I want to feel him, I want talk to him and I can't because he's been taken from me. I don't have my son anymore," said Jeannie Harper, James Lewis' mother. "I'm feeling a lot of pain right now."

She said her son suffered from mental health issues, and says it was difficult sometimes to get through to him. Harper said it was even more difficult for her personally, because she is a mental health nurse.

"That's one thing with people who have mental illness, they are not compliant with taking it because it interrupts their daily activities. It makes them sleep more. Sometimes his behavior gets to where he can't control it, it gets out of control and he may be obnoxious to other people, but he calms down easily with us, the family; we can talk to him," said Harper.

"He wasn't able to get medical treatment, he was in psychosis, full blown psychosis. He truly had some struggles mentally," said sister Ann Lewis.

Police said James Lewis threatened to kill his wife, and was carrying a gun. Police said Lewis called 9-1-1 himself, but his family and police say they cannot confirm Lewis was even married, but he did have a girlfriend.

"More than likely we're pretty sure there was domestic abuse, and we're not excusing that, but there were instances where my brother's anger and mentally things were so out of control. There was no way we could control it," Ann Lewis said.

Police found James Lewis in Silver Springs Park about 3:20 a.m. Sunday, riding a bicycle and holding a gun. They said he wouldn't respond to officers so they used Tasers and even fired bean bags to try to control the situation, but they say it didn't work.

Police Chief Paul Williams said Lewis raised his gun as if he was going to shoot at police officers. That's when police say three officers shot Lewis. He later died at the hospital.

"About 65 interactions with police over the course of his life," said Chief Paul Williams, Springfield's Police Chief.

Williams said Lewis did not speak with officers the night of the shooting. He says all officers take some training in dealing with mental health cases, but said none of the officers contacting Lewis at the park were certified through Crisis Intervention Training.

"From what I've gained from officers, it wouldn't have made any difference what level of training they had. If someone won't engage with you, then you can't utilize that training to help them," Williams said.

"It is not a crime to have mental illness, and I would like to see more help for those people, more understanding. Because no mother, no sister, no brother, nobody should go through this pain that we're going through now," Harper said.

Lewis' brother, Tyrone, said he and his brother were abused at a foster home at an early age and that his brother, James, became a protector.

"There were four other people in the home and we would get jumped on, beaten and abused in other ways during the time we were there. It came to the point where my brother would take on all four of those people just to protect me his younger brother," Tyrone Lewis said.

"The last time I saw him was Thanksgiving," Harper said. "He was happy with us, as he always is, and he was James. What can I say?"

The family told KSPR they are planning a candlelight vigil for James Lewis to take place at Silver Springs Park, but no date or time has been set yet.