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Black man killed by Aurora police was unarmed and holding a phone, body camera footage shows

Shelly Bradbury, The Denver Post on

Published in News & Features

DENVER — A 37-year-old Black man was unarmed and holding a phone when an Aurora police officer shot and killed him in late May, according to short segments of body-worn camera footage released Thursday by the Aurora Police Department.

Kilyn Lewis was raising his hands in the air when Aurora police SWAT Officer Michael Dieck shot him outside an apartment complex at 384 S. Ironton St. on May 23, the video shows. Lewis died from the single gunshot wound on May 25.

Lewis was suspected in a May 5 attempted first-degree murder in Denver, and Denver and Aurora officers were working to arrest him on May 23, Aurora police have said. Officers surveilled Lewis over the course of two days, interim Aurora police Chief Heather Morris said in a video briefing about the shooting.

The SWAT team eventually confronted Lewis after he parked a red Chevrolet Monte Carlo in the apartment complex near Expo Park. He was standing at the open trunk of the car next to a walker when officers surrounded him to try to make an arrest.

Body-worn camera footage shows Lewis — with empty hands — take a few steps toward the driver’s side of the car while officers scream at him to get on the ground for five seconds.

His right hand briefly goes out of sight behind his back, then he raises his hands in front of him toward his head, holding a phone in his right hand, the video shows. Simultaneously, Dieck shoots Lewis, who collapses.

On the ground, Lewis screams and puts his hands up, the video shows.

“I don’t have nothing! I don’t have nothing!” he screams.

Dieck shot Lewis within six seconds of officers beginning to shout commands, the footage shows.

Lewis’ family on Thursday called for Dieck to be fired, banned from policing in Colorado and investigated for murder during a news conference at the offices of Denver law firm Rathod Mohamedbhai.

“Officer Dieck murdered — murdered — my husband,” said Anndrec Lewis, his wife. “He took everything from me.”

In his obituary, his family remembered the husband and father of two as a loyal family man who was funny and the “life of the party.” He enjoyed fishing and camping and attended Montbello High School, according to the obituary.

Attorney Edward Hopkins Jr. on Thursday criticized Aurora police for how they handled the arrest, pointing out that the officers had been watching Lewis for two days and chose the location, timing and tactics of the attempted arrest.

“They had full control,” he said. “They could have done it safer. Why did they jump out like that? Why did they put him in a position like that? They almost set that man up for something bad.”

The Aurora Police Department released only three short clips of officers’ body-worn camera footage Thursday as part of a nearly six-minute video in which Morris talks about the officers’ actions.

 

State law requires police departments to release the full, unedited body-worn camera footage from incidents in which there is a complaint of misconduct within 21 days of the complaint, unless releasing the video would “substantially interfere with” an ongoing investigation, in which case police agencies have 45 days to release the footage.

Aurora spokesman Ryan Luby on Thursday declined to provide the full body-worn camera footage including the minutes leading up to and after the shooting, but said the city would “comply with the law as it is written.”

In the video briefing about the shooting, Morris called the loss of life “a tragedy.”

“I know that nothing I say can ease the pain this family is feeling,” she said. “What I can do is ensure that a complete and thorough investigation is conducted and share those findings with our community.”

The 18th Judicial District’s critical response team is investigating the shooting to determine whether Dieck acted within the law, and the Aurora Police Department is also conducting its own internal investigation. Dieck was placed on paid leave after the shooting.

Lewis’s mother, LaRonda Jones, called her son’s killing “outright murder.”

“Officer Dieck, if you are listening… I want you to have your day in court,” she said. “Something you did not allow my son to have.”

Lewis was wanted for attempted first-degree murder in connection with a May 5 shooting near the intersection of 48th Avenue and Colorado Boulevard in which a 63-year-old blind man was shot, according to a partially redacted arrest affidavit provided by the Denver Police Department.

Denver police believe Lewis opened fire from behind the wheel of a red Chevrolet Monte Carlo around 11:34 a.m. after an argument with other people nearby, according to the affidavit.

Surveillance video showed the driver of the Monte Carlo holding a gun across the passenger seat as pedestrians ran away, at a location where officers later found spent cartridge casings, according to the arrest affidavit. A witness identified Lewis as the driver of the red Monte Carlo, according to the affidavit.

The blind man told investigators he was walking his regular route when he heard gunshots and realized he’d been shot. He walked to the Denver Rescue Mission at 4600 E. 48th Ave. and sought help because he does not carry a phone.

Lewis was arrested several times in Colorado between 2004 and 2014, but had not faced criminal charges in nearly a decade before the attempted first-degree murder warrant, court records show.

Lewis pleaded guilty to robbery in 2005 and 2007, to negligent child abuse causing serious injury in 2006, and to attempting to illegally discharge a firearm in 2008. In 2014, he pleaded guilty to trespassing, court records show. Lewis was sentenced to six years in prison on the 2007 robbery conviction.


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