December 15, 2015

Attorney: Video shows self-defense claim in shooting ‘not legitimate’

This photo shows a man shooting at Lewis, who has his back turned.

A team of legal representatives for the mother of a slain Albuquerque teen offered their interpretation of recently released cell phone video of the deadly shooting in March.

This photo shows a man shooting at Lewis, who has his back turned.

This photo shows a man shooting at Lewis, who has his back turned.

The video captures parts of the Los Altos Skate Park shooting that killed 17-year-old Jaquise Lewis and wounded six others. Albuquerque police released the previously withheld video last week after losing a lawsuit in which a judge found the city in violation of the state’s public records law.

Munah Green, the mother of Lewis, filed the lawsuit in July after requesting documents related to the shooting that police had withheld since April.

Police have stated that Lewis fired a gun that night and was killed in self defense. The person who shot Lewis hasn’t been charged with a crime or named publicly.

Green’s legal representation went over the video with reporters Tuesday and offered a much different interpretation from that of the Albuquerque Police Department.

“[APD] has blamed and continues to blame the shootings on one person: the person who died after being shot twice in the back, and that’s 17-year-old Jaquise Lewis,” Assed said.

The video starts with a brawl between multiple people and Lewis is seen wearing a yellow Los Angeles Lakers shirt and a white glove on his right hand. Assed said Lewis isn’t involved in the immediate fight, but appears to be backing away from it.

At the 20-second mark, a young woman swings her left arm at Lewis’s face, and Lewis responds by swinging his right arm at her head. Then, a man wearing a black T-shirt and blue jeans runs up to Lewis.

“The man in the black shirt and jeans is a very significant player in what happens next,” Alex Olivas, the head paralegal for Assed, told reporters while screening the video.

Warning: the video posted below contains violence and profanity

The man walks after Lewis for the next few seconds, as both become distant from the video. Around the video’s 35-second mark, the man in the black T-shirt turns around and walks to a man wearing a gray hoodie. The men appear to exchange something, but it’s not clear what or who is exchanging to who.

The man in the black T-shirt then turns around and runs away from the camera, toward Lewis and his group.

Around that same point in the video, a man with dreadlocks wearing a yellow T-shirt and brown pants comes into view on the left side of the screen. He also runs in the direction of Lewis’ group.

At the 58-second mark, the man in the black T-shirt is back into view. Assed and his legal team say the man is pulling a gun out of his his right back pocket.

The man in the yellow T-shirt and brown jeans also comes into view again and appears to have a gun, according to Assed. He is carrying a skateboard in his left hand and drops the skateboard, “freeing up his hand … to help with controlling whatever it is in his right hand,” Assed said.

Someone behind these men fires four gunshots next; the muzzle appears to show these gunshots fired into the air. Assed said the someone wearing a white shirt appears to be firing those first gunshots.

Starting at the 1:16 mark, Lewis comes back into view and is seen in the distance. He appears to be grabbing something. He then moves forward, outside of the video’s camera, and two gunshots are heard.

This is where APD has said Lewis fired a gun and hit people. Assed and his legal team emphasize that this section of the video is inconclusive.

“There is no way on this video to determine where those gunshots have come from,” Olivas said.

Assed said since the release of the video, his team is not in any better of a place to determine whether Lewis did or didn’t have a gun that night. Lewis’ family and friends who were with him that night have stated that he never had a gun, and Assed said for now he has to assume that was the case.

APD has said that witnesses have testified that Lewis indeed fired into the crowd that night.

Speaking hypothetically, Assed said that even if Lewis had a gun and fired at that moment, what happens next in the video doesn’t justify Lewis’s death.

At the 1:26 mark, Lewis comes back into view and approaches a crowd closer to the camera with his hands up. He then turns around and is seen walking away from the crowd for at least three seconds.

Next, the video shows a man extend his arm and fire eight times at Lewis. This is the same man in the black T-shirt and jeans who was seen approaching Lewis earlier in the video and pulling a gun out of his back pocket.

Two of those bullets eventually killed Lewis. Assed said this part of the video shows Lewis “walking away from wherever the trouble was” and that he “didn’t pose an immediate threat of harm or death to anyone when he was shot.”

Green said that to her, the video “proves my son was murdered.”

At least 13 more gunshots are heard during the video’s remaining minute, though none can be seen.

In a statement, APD spokeswoman Celina Espinoza reiterated that the police’s conclusion of Lewis being killed in self defense comes from “current witness statements, forensic evidence, video and conscientious police work.”

“Preliminary findings are based on the current witness statements, forensic evidence, video and conscientious police work,” Espinoza said. “We will turn our investigation over to the District Attorney’s Office who will ultimately determine what charges, if any, are filed.”

Assed called on law enforcement to arrest Lewis’s shooter and charge him with homicide.

“At the very least, this is a question that should be properly placed before a grand jury,” Assed said.

He said his law office is also submitting evidence to Brandenburg’s office to get her to call a grand jury investigation.