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August 27, 1997
Author: TERESA TALERICO and ROBERT L. JAMIESON, JR., P-I REPORTERS
A 21-year-old North Seattle man who was shot by police Monday night says the whole incident started when his mother asked him to wash the dishes. Alfred Lewis, in a telephone interview from his police-guarded room at Harborview Medical Center, said he was holding a steak knife, but police are wrong when they say he lunged at the officer who shot him three times. “I just had it pointing at the ground,” he said. “I wasn’t running at anybody. Then all of a sudden, he just started shooting.”
Police and witnesses, however, say Lewis charged at Officer Eric Michl with the knife. “We have witnesses that are contrary to what he told you,” said Sgt. Don Cameron, a homicide detective investigating the case. “The neighbors’ stories are different.” Lewis, who suffered gunshot wounds in the abdomen, left hand and right leg, was in satisfactory condition last night. His injuries included the loss of a kidney. He blamed his hot temper for the dispute, and said he hadn’t been taking his medication for depression.
Lewis said he became enraged at his mother, and his 22-year- old brother scolded him for yelling and cursing at her. “He said, `Don’t talk to Mom like that,” Lewis said. “He picked up a stick and tried to hit me with it. He was in my room already, and the knife was in the room, too, and I picked it up. I was just angry. I was real angry. “It’s like sometimes I just can’t control myself, so they called the police,” he said in a weak voice. His father called 911. His sister, Alfreda Lewis, 19, said her brother battles depression , which sometimes sparks near-suicidal rages like the one that hit him Monday night. She said he has taken medication for depression since he was a child and still visits a psychiatrist. But he had stopped taking his medicine, Alfreda said, and slipped into a depression.
“It was a basic family argument,” she said. “My mom asked him to do a chore or something in the kitchen. He just blew up from there.” He clutched a steak knife as family members tried to reason with him, she said. “He was like, `Stay away from me. I’ll cut myself,’ ” she said. “My mom was talking to him in the bathroom when the police came,” she said. “None of us were in fear of our lives.” When police arrived, her brother refused to drop the knife. As officers backed out of the house, he followed them. “He was walking out and they were backing up. I remember him saying, `You guys can just take me to jail,’ ” she said. “I can understand the officer feeling threatened, but I think he should have used better judgement.”
But neighbors tell a different story. They say Lewis lunged at Michl, a 17-year department employee who worked as a dispatcher before becoming a patrol officer in 1989. Police spokeswoman Christie Lynn Bonner said Lewis will be booked for investigation of felony assault. Yesterday, police also investigated and released Lewis’s 22-year-old brother, who was arrested on suspicion of assaulting and obstructing officers responding to the 911 call. Prosecutors will determine if charges will be filed against him. Police remained tight-lipped on what happened Monday evening, saying their investigation is continuing. Michl was to have been placed on paid administrative leave or reassigned to a desk position by last night, Bonner said.
A police firearms review board, made up of four police personnel and a citizen, will determine if the shooting was justified, a process that could take about one week, police said. Michl, the son of a retired Seattle firefighter, has long been associated with law enforcement. As a teenager, he joined a youth organization affiliated with the Seattle Police Department and, and was hired as a dispatcher after graduating from high school. “Since he was a little boy he wanted to be a police officer. He just always knew that is what he wanted,” said his grandmother, Jean Michl. The officer’s mother, Marie Ellen Michl, said her 35-year-old son had never shot anyone before but was well aware of the risk officers face. “It’s something every police officer dreads,” said Marie Ellen Michl, who has spoken briefly to her son since the shooting. “He has always loved the job and the feeling that he is making a difference. Eric would feel bad for the (victim’s) family. He’d be the first to say he feels really bad about it.” Alfreda Lewis said her brother attended Roosevelt High School. He has a girlfriend and was hoping to get an apartment of his own. He was not working, but had visited U.S. Army recruiters and considered joining the military. “He was just basically depressed,” she said. “He’s not a mean person.”
But the family is trying to find psychological help for Alfred and has considered placing him in a full-time treatment facility, she said. The manager of a convenience store near Lewis’ house said he encountered a hot-tempered young man who allegedly beat the manager’s head against the wall of his store in a dispute. He said he filed a restraining order that prevents Lewis from entering the store. Shahab Shaigan, 35, manager of the 7-Eleven store on Roosevelt Way Northeast several blocks from the Lewis home, said the young man charged $100 in merchandise but refused to pay. About a year ago, when Shaigan questioned him about it in the parking lot, he said Lewis attacked him as Shaigan walked into the store. “When I got to the door, I turned around and he’s running at me, fists clenched,” he said. “We started fighting.” A passer-by called police. Alfreda Lewis dismissed Shaigan’s version of the incident. “That was a long time ago,” she said. “From my understanding, he (Shaigan) got in his face and they were going back and forth cursing at each other. The guy swung at him.” P-I reporter Teresa Talerico can be reached at 206-448-8223 or firstname.lastname@example.org i All rights reserved. Reproduced with the permission of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.