Community gathering

The mother of death row inmate Julius Jones, Madeline Jones, speaks of supporting families impacted by gun violence as the mother of the late Isaiah Lewis listens.

A community in grief gathered Monday at Edmond Trinity Christian Church trying to make sense of a life cut short — that of the late 17-year-old Isaiah Lewis.

A federal civil rights lawsuit was filed in May against the City of Edmond, Police Sgt. Milo Box, and Officer Denton Scherman in the police-related shooting of Lewis. The lawsuit states it seeks justice for civil rights violations that the Lewis family said resulted in Isaiah’s death on Monday, April 29.

“Was it necessary? Was everything done to avoid it,” asked Rev. Don Heath of Edmond Trinity Christian Church.

Examining the hard, cold facts of the case must take place before reconciliation between the Edmond Police Department and the African American community is possible, Heath said in prayer.

The Edmond police are expected to make a presentation at the church about the use of force in their protocols, Heath said. He is hopeful a subsequent discussion with Police Chief J.D. Younger will address the issue of race, adding however that Younger will not be able to discuss Isaiah’s death because of pending litigation.

ISAIAH DIDN’T DESERVE

TO DIE, MOTHER SAYS

Isaiah’s mother, Vicki Lewis, said her family and Isaiah’s supporters have struggled to find answers. No one should have to bear injustice, she said.

“My life has been impacted in ways you can’t imagine. In my mind my child is murdered every night,” Lewis said.

Vicki encouraged supporters to “call the media out” for the way they have portrayed Isaiah’s story. Planting seeds of doubt has tainted her son as a criminal, she said.

“If you’re not portraying the truth and you haven’t done any research, you’re a gossip monger yourself,” Vicki said.

Social prejudice and the media sometimes hijacks sensitive stories dealing with a family’s bereavement, said Nathan Yemane, a licensed therapist palliative clinical social worker. Stories no longer represent a mother’s grief or loss, he said. The narrative of grief is distorted and politicized to the point it becomes denied, he said.

Anyone with common sense would know a naked person is not hiding weapons of mass destruction, said Sara Bana, public advocate.

Madeline Jones, the mother of convicted death row inmate Julius Jones spoke while standing just behind where Vicki sat.

“I’m just here to support her. I think we all feel her pain but we can’t see what she’s going through,” Madeline said. 

After a lengthy appeals process, Julius remains on death row in Oklahoma for the 1999 murder of Paul Howell, who was shot and killed in Edmond during the theft of Howell’s SUV.

“I know she can feel my pain,” Madeline said.

She added that she wants to help others to make their lives better.

SHOOTING REMAINS

UNDER INVESTIGATION

Isaiah’s death is also being investigated by the Oklahoma County District Attorney’s Office. Police say the boy was unarmed during the police chase. Isaiah had been spotted running naked through the area of Foxfire and Olde English roads after a domestic disturbance, according to police.

Box and Scherman were in an unmarked police vehicle when they reportedly saw Lewis break into an occupied residence at 520 Gray Fox Run. Isaiah’s mother disputes that her son broke into the home. He was knocking on the door asking for help, she said.

Box and Scherman went in the house where both officers were assaulted by Isaiah, according to Edmond Police.One of the officers used a Taser on Isaiah with no affect, police reported. No further information about what transpired between the officers and Lewis within the home has been made public. Statements have been taken, however they are not considered public information by Edmond Police Department. 

At least one of the officers fired his hand gun four times striking Isaiah, according to police.

One of the officers present at the shooting was a trained paramedic and began life saving procedures. Isaiah was fatally wounded and transported to OU Medical Center in Oklahoma City where he was pronounced dead.

SEEKING SOLUTIONS

Atrocities continue to happen when black and brown bodies are met by law enforcement, said Rev. Sheri Amore, leader of Black Lives Matter, Oklahoma chapter.

“This is an epidemic. It is a systemic issue of racism,” Amore said. “It is a systemic issue of white supremacy, and it is a systemic issue that law enforcement has no accountability. And usually there are no consequences — indictments or convictions in there of when they commit a crime.”

Bana said Isaiah’s tragedy is heartbreaking.

There were at least 56 police officer shootings in Oklahoma in 2018, she said. Thirty-three of those shootings were fatal. Oklahoma ranks fourth in the nation for the number of citizens armed or unarmed who lose their lives to law enforcement officers, she said.

Nineteen of those shot in Oklahoma were white, 16 people shot by law enforcement in Oklahoma were black, she noted. Black Oklahomans were the most likely Oklahomans to be killed by a police shooting on a per capita basis, she said.

“I continue to believe such tragedies can be avoided if we are consistently invested in public safety measures that are inclusive,” Bana said, “and create opportunities where we have different types of voices whether they are mental health professionals, social workers, or even the voices of victims and survivors of police shootings, to have a seat at the table.”