The decision came nearly three weeks after the Jan. 7 shooting of Karon Blake that fueled tensions in D.C., as residents, activists and lawmakers pushed for the shooter to be publicly identified and held accountable.
The incident occurred shortly before 4 a.m. in the 1000 block of Quincy Street NE, across the street from the Brookland Middle School, which Karon attended.
Authorities have said a man who lived on the street told investigators he confronted the 13-year-old after he heard noises and saw the youth and possibly others breaking into vehicles. Police have said it appears two other people ran away, and there is no indication Karon was armed.
In a statement, Smith said his client maintains his innocence. He described the incident as a tragedy and asserted that Lewis “had dedicated his career to mentoring and supporting youth in the District of Columbia, which only adds to how distraught he is over the death of Karon Blake.”
D.C. officials have previously said Lewis was put on leave from his $75,000 a year job at the recreation department. Records show he has worked for the city for the past 17 years.
Police had previously declined to detail what the shooter told police about the interaction he had with Karon, or what other evidence they had gathered about the encounter. They also would not say how many shots were fired, or how many times Karon was struck.
The man called 911 after he shot Karon and was administering CPR when police arrived, authorities have said. His firearm was legally registered, and he had a conceal-carry permit, they have said. Authorities had been exploring the question of whether he acted out of fear for his life.
Some activists likened the shooting to vigilantism, and criticized the shooter for killing an unarmed teen over a possible property crime.
“Black children deserve to live,” the Black Swan Academy, a nonprofit that supports local Black youth in becoming civic leaders, said in a statement. “They deserve to be able to make mistakes and learn from them.”
Council member Robert C. White Jr. (D-At Large), tweeted that when he was 13 years old, “I got into a lot of trouble. Made a lot of bad choices. And lived to learn from them. A lot of us did. Karon was shot dead. His family lost a child, and his friends are hurt permanently. This can’t be who we are as a city.”
D.C. Police Chief Robert J. Contee III had previously urged patience during the investigation, and expressed anger at what he said were erroneous attempts by internet sleuths to identify the then-unidentified shooter, who, like Karon, is African American.
D.C. Council member Zachary Parker, the newly elected Democrat for Ward 5, which includes the Brookland neighborhood where Karon was killed, has repeatedly pressed police to provide additional information, including the shooter’s name.
In an interview earlier this month, Parker said police had “left a wound open to fester, and allowed misinformation to be shared broadly.” Earlier, he told The Washington Post, “Based on the facts that have been shared, it does seem reasonable to expect he will be charged.”
At a recent community meeting at the Turkey Thicket Recreation Center, adjacent to the Brookland Middle School, residents took turns expressing rage at police. Karon’s grandfather, Sean Long, told the crowd that had his grandson been White, the shooter would have been immediately arrested.
“I didn’t know you could get a gun permit and shoot somebody for messing with a car,” Long said at a community meeting shortly after the shooting. He added, “I’m Black. If I had killed a White boy on that street, they would’ve put me under the jail.”
This is a developing story and will be updated.