September 7, 2015

City won’t ‘admit or deny’ cause of slain teen’s death

Photo Credit: Justice For Jaquise Lewis

The city of Albuquerque’s attorney’s office is claiming it doesn’t have knowledge of how a teen was killed earlier this year in a high-profile shooting at Los Altos Skate Park.

Photo Credit: Justice For Jaquise Lewis

Photo Credit: Justice For Jaquise Lewis

That’s despite an autopsy report from the University of New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator that concluded 17-year-old Jaquise Lewis died from two gunshots following the night of March 22. Six others were also wounded that night following an incident involving a borrowed skateboard that led to a brawl between two groups.

According to Lewis’ autopsy, one bullet landed in his left mid-back while the other landed “on the left posterior upper arm just above the elbow.”

Munah Green, the mother of Lewis who is suing the city for allegedly withholding public records related to the shooting, said the autopsy explains her son’s cause of death “loud and clear.”

“They know how he died and they know exactly what he died from,” Green told New Mexico Political Report, referring to Albuquerque police. “They don’t want the truth to come out.”

Yet City Attorney Jessica Hernandez said that the city’s response in the lawsuit denying knowledge of how Lewis died is “very common in early pleadings in civil cases.”

Green’s lawsuit, filed in July, contains a sentence that reads, “plaintiff’s son, Jaquise Lewis, died on March 22, 2015, at the Los Altos Skate Park after being shot twice in the back.” In the city’s formal response, Albuquerque Assistant City Attorney Kevin Morrow writes that the city “is without sufficient knowledge to admit or deny” how Lewis died. Hernandez said that this language simply reflects that Albuquerque police are still investigating the skate park shooting incident.

“Any statements from [the Albuquerque Police Department] regarding the investigation have been preliminary based upon the information available at this time,” Hernandez said in a prepared statement to New Mexico Political Report. “APD has been clear that those circumstances may change as the investigation continues and new facts become available.”

The cause of death was determined by the University of New Mexico, not Albuquerque Police. Hernandez did not address this in her statement.

Two months after Lewis died, Albuquerque police held a press conference stating that he was shot and killed in self defense after firing a gun into the crowd. But since then, multiple people who were at the skate park that night have come forward and said Lewis never had a gun and was shot while he was running away.

According to Green, a cell phone video of the shooting obtained by police shows Lewis getting shot twice in the back as he’s running away.

Police haven’t revealed the name or pressed for charges against the man who killed Lewis. They also won’t release the cell phone video to the public, stating that doing so could jeopardize their investigation into the shooting. Green, who police showed the video to earlier this summer, said their actions since Lewis died have been “devastating” to her. She said she’s out for justice for her son, who would have turned 18 this month if he were still alive.

“I told them to release the video and I’ll drop the lawsuit,” Green said. “I don’t care about money.”

Read the city’s response to Munah Green’s lawsuit below:

D-202-CV-2015-05680 City’s Response to Initial Complaint by New Mexico Political Report