Las Vegas police on Tuesday arrested eight teenagers on murder charges in connection with the death of Jonathan Lewis, a 17-year-old who was pummeled by a mob of his classmates in an alley outside their high school, authorities said.
The eight suspects charged with murder are between 13 and 17 years old, said Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Lt. Jason Johansson in a news conference on Tuesday. Police along with the district attorney’s office are beginning the process to charge them as adults. Johansson added that there’s no evidence indicating the attack was “a hate crime.”
On Nov. 1, students from Rancho High School, including Jonathan, met in an alley just across the street from the campus to fight over “stolen wireless headphones and, possibly, a stolen marijuana vape pen,” Johansson said. Police believe the items were stolen from Jonathan’s friend but once they were all in the alley, it was Jonathan who fought instead.
Johansson said as soon as the first punch was thrown, 10 people swarmed Jonathan, pulled him to the ground and began kicking, punching and stomping him.
After the fight, a passerby found the teenager unconscious in the alley and carried him to the school, where staff performed CPR. First responders rushed him to the University Medical Center of Southern Nevada, where it was soon determined that he had suffered “non-survivable head trauma,” Johansson said. Jonathan died several days later.
Police search for two more suspects, ask public for help
Videos of the incident – called “extremely disturbing” and “void of humanity” by police officials – circulated social media and were used by investigators to identify eight of the 10 suspects. On Tuesday, police and the FBI coordinated arrests of the eight students and executed search warrants at nine homes throughout Las Vegas. Johansson said clothing worn by teenagers in the video and cellphones were recovered.
Las Vegas police will be releasing photos of the remaining suspects and urged the public to assist investigators in identifying them. Johansson asked that people submit footage of the incident to police and called on parents to speak with their children about the videos, which have been shared widely across multiple social media platforms.
“If you’re a mentor with youth, if you’re a parent, you have to assume that your kids have seen this video … don’t put your head in the sand,” Johansson said. “Please talk with your kids about it and explain – people need to know right from wrong and that this act was heinous.”
Jonathan’s father seeks ‘deeper justice’
Jonathan Lewis Sr., an electrician who lives in Austin, Texas, said his son was “a hero” who stuck up for his friend.
“That’s just the kind of person he was,” Lewis, 38, told USA TODAY. He described his son as an avid hip-hop fan who liked to make digital art.
Lewis said when he got the phone call that Jonathan was attacked and in the hospital, he could “could barely walk.”
His family arranged to get him a flight to Las Vegas, where he and Jonathan’s mother stayed at their son’s bedside for days. During that time, they started planning a foundation that would address youth violence issues through counseling, mentorships and after-school programs.
Lewis created a website for the foundation, Team Jonathan, and is beginning to work on what he hopes becomes a nonprofit that’ll prevent incidents like what happened to his son.
“Justice is a much much deeper issue to me than these children go to prison,” Lewis said. “This is an all-encompassing issue that involves all of humanity and how we behave and the lack of empathy and compassion that we have. I just feel like my son’s legacy deserves a deeper justice.”
Christopher Cann is a breaking news reporter for USA TODAY. Reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on X @ChrisCannFL.
First appeared on www.usatoday.com