DC arrests city employee over shooting death of 13-year-old

Jan 30, 2023, 9:56 PM | Updated: Jan 31, 2023, 1:28 pm

FILE - Flowers are secured to a pole as a memorial to Karon Blake, 13, on the corner of Quincy Stre...

FILE - Flowers are secured to a pole as a memorial to Karon Blake, 13, on the corner of Quincy Street NE and Michigan Avenue NE in the Brookland neighborhood of Washington, Jan. 10, 2023. The note reads, "Karon we will love and miss you dearly." Jason Lewis, a longtime Parks and Recreation Department employee, turned himself in Tuesday morning to face charges of second-degree murder while armed. Lewis shot middle schooler Karon Blake on Jan. 7, around 4 a.m. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Police arrested a D.C. city employee Tuesday over the fatal shooting of a 13-year old that has roiled community passions.

Jason Lewis, a longtime Parks and Recreation Department employee, turned himself in Tuesday morning to face charges of second-degree murder while armed. Lewis shot Karon Blake on Jan. 7, around 4 a.m., across the street from the middle school Blake attended.

The shooting prompted a fierce community response, with Metropolitan Police Department chief Robert Contee facing intense public pressure to either arrest the shooter or reveal their identity. Lewis. 41, was ordered held without bond until a Feb. 13 court appearance.

“The investigation took the amount of time that it needed to take,” Contee said Tuesday. “There was somewhat of a self-defense claim that needed to be overcome.”

The charges don’t hinge directly on the shots that killed Blake, but rather to an earlier gunshot that Lewis didn’t mention in his initial statement to police. The arrest warrant acknowledges that Blake was part of a group of youths apparently robbing parked cars, and that Blake apparently ran straight at Lewis before he opened fire from his property.

But it charges Lewis with setting off the violent chain of events with an earlier shot that he fired — one which Contee said “was not part of the initial discussion that we had,” when Lewis made his original statement to police.

Contee said multiple residents on the block came forward with video evidence from their own security cameras. The arrest warrant delves into a chilling level of detail from that footage, including Blake pleading after he was shot.

“The decedent (Blake) can then be heard yelling, ‘I am sorry’ numerous times, followed by ‘Please don’t’ and ‘No’ numerous times. The decedent yells, ‘I am a kid’ and ‘I am only 12’ numerous times,” it states.

That footage, which hasn’t been publicly released, showed Blake and his companions emerging from what turned out to be a stolen car and breaking into parked cars in Lewis’ Brookland neighborhood, the warrant claims. “They had flashlights, they were peering into cars and they were going into the cars,” Contee said.

Lewis is charged with firing first at the young man who remained seated in the stolen car. In the confusion after that first shot, Blake apparently ran directly at Lewis and was fatally wounded.

“The first shot was fired … at someone sitting in a vehicle who wasn’t an immediate threat,” Contee said Tuesday. This original shot, when Lewis had no claim of being personally under threat, was “where things really unraveled” and “put the chain of events into place” that resulted in Blake’s death, Contee said.

“I don’t know if (Blake) knew that Mr. Lewis was standing where he was standing,” he said.

The police chief encouraged the youths who were with Blake that night to come forward to police with their own testimony. But he stopped short Tuesday of promising any sort of amnesty from criminal charges.

“My assessment is that these young men obviously need some sort of intervention,” he said. “Ï want to make sure they get what they need.”

A statement from Lewis’ attorney, Lee Smith, maintained his innocence and said, “While this is certainly a tragedy, once all the facts are heard, I believe that a jury will find that there was no crime here.”

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