On a scale of one to 10, San Mateo Police Department investigators are at about a two or three in solving the David Lewis homicide case, they said Thursday night during a "Chat with the Chief" meeting in East Palo Alto.
Police have conducted more than 100 interviews and have executed 25 search warrants looking for Lewis' killer or killers. Ten detectives worked around the clock, San Mateo police Chief Susan Manheimer told Lewis' friends and family during the "Chat with the Chief" Thursday.
Friends and relatives made emotional pleas to provide more clues so that they can help find Lewis' killer.
Manheimer said at one point detectives had a couple of suspects and thought they were close to making an arrest.
But upon deeper investigation the leads fizzled, as alibis emerged and it became clear the suspects could not have been at the scene of the June 9 shooting in a parking garage at Hillsdale Shopping Center in San Mateo, she said.
Police do know that Lewis often frequented the mall, which was near where he worked for the county on 37th Avenue. He loved Mrs. Field's cookies and often met people at the mall. Police have scoured phone records, e-mails and other potential evidence for clues related to any persons he might have intended to meet that day, conversations he might have had and his frame of mind, Manheimer said.
What is known is that Lewis never made it into the mall that day. Police think he was gunned down after exiting his car, she said.
During initial interviews with detectives, some of his colleagues said they were told that Lewis had uttered the name of his killer. But Manheimer said Lewis, who was initially conscious, told police numerous times that he did not know the shooter. Then he said names that were part of a stream-of-consciousness babble that police and paramedics tried to take down while administering emergency aid, she said.
"We had some clear individuals that we focused on but it took time to discount them many weeks later," she said.
Family members and friends appealed for release of more information.
"It would help us to know if there is a primary focus in this investigation. If not, what can we do to help you all to get there?" asked Free At Last colleague Vicki Smothers.
Residents said East Palo Alto is the kind of place where a strong underground would reveal a killer. In virtually every murder that has taken place in the last 40 years within the city, someone knows who did it, they said. With a $50,000 reward from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, residents said they are sure someone would have come forward if they knew the killer.
They expressed frustration that San Mateo police might not be well enough connected with the community to have gained trust from people in the know. But Manheimer implored residents to trust in her and her investigators. The Lewis case is complicated by the fact that he has a global reach and knew so many people and had been in so many places. He had even planned a trip to speak in Kenya just weeks away from his June death.
While the early investigation focused on seeking a connection from within the community, Manheimer said police now cannot discount that the shooting might have been predicated by someone unknown to Lewis or by a random act, such as road rage.
Manheimer said detectives "have many leads and no leads." Police are taking a "global" approach to finding the killer and they are not discounting any clue or piece of evidence, no matter how slight, she said.
Asked to dispel any rumors related to Lewis' death, Manheimer and lead detective Lt. Wayne Hoss said they are not considering any information rumor at this point.
"We don't know yet what is rumor and what is fact," Hoss said. He added that his frustrations are that police papered East Palo Alto retail stores and other places with fliers after the killing but few remain up today. Police want to keep a public focus on the search for the killer to keep the case from going cold.
East Palo Alto police Chief Ronald Davis said his department is working closely with San Mateo police.
Police are asking anyone with information to contact Detective Rick Decker at 650-522-7654. An anonymous text message can be sent to 650-262-3473. By anonymous e-mail, contact sanmateo@tipnow or or call the Secret Witness line at 650-522-7676.