Emotions high at briefing on Lewis homicide

More questions than answers surround death of East Palo Alto community leader

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.

Related stories:

$50,000 reward offered in David Lewis homicide

Filmmakers to document life of David Lewis

The impact of a singular man

Argument preceded shooting of rehab leader David Lewis

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Like this comment
Posted by Hey-Buddy-Assume-The-Position
a resident of another community
on Aug 20, 2010 at 10:41 am

> Police have conducted more than 100 interviews and have
> executed 25 search warrants

There was a time that people we led to believe that a Judge acted as a check-and-balance over a police force that might easily run-a-muk. What kind of evidence can the police have to justify each of these 25 warrants? It would appear that the Judges in San Mateo County are simply rubber-stamps for the police.

Everyone wants killers like this one to be caught. But giving the investigating police agency carte-blanche to search any/every home of people whose telephone number pops up on a victim's telephone records is chilling. (Keeping in mind that the police are not exactly known for civility when they are executing warrants involving murder.)

Best wishes to the SMC police in chasing this criminal .. but it's time for the Courts to stop rubber-stamping their search warrants.

Like this comment
Posted by Reasonable
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 20, 2010 at 11:31 am

If you know anything about investigative police work, you'll know that 25 warrants over two months for a case like this one is not unusual. And we're fortunate that warrants are required. The alternative (breaking down doors)is much worse. And I don't know of any judge who "rubber stamps" a warrant. They risk their careers doing that.

Like this comment
Posted by Hey-Buddy-Assume-The-Position
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 20, 2010 at 2:55 pm

> you'll know that 25 warrants over two months for a case like
> this one is not unusual.

Really .. well, let's look at the murders in EPA over the last ten years--

1) What is the average number of warrants issued for each case?
2) How many cases were unsolved?
3) What is the average number of warrants issued for the unsolved cases?

Now .. for the most part, most of us only know about police investigations from what we read in the newspapers. Suppose we go through the Weekly's archive and try to glean the number of warrants issued in every murder reported by this paper. Got any idea what the number would be?

Reality is that most of us don't know about "police work", and most police departments don't go out of their way to help the public know.

So .. are you going to answer any of these questions about EPA murders?

Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 21, 2010 at 11:07 pm

I think what the poster meant by saying 25 warrants "for a case lie this" isn't unusual is based on Lewis's extensive list of contacts, the type of work he did & pursuing leads connected to both. These search warrants might include home & work computers & various types of records. Lewis had more than one office, for example, & worked w/many organizations & individuals, from folks on the street to law enforcement to parolees to counselors.

Like this comment
Posted by Cynthia
a resident of another community
on Aug 22, 2010 at 9:46 am

Here we go! Although David was from East Palo Alto, he was not murdered there, so why are we talking about how many murders occurred in East Palo Alto. Maybe because "buddy" wants to keep the focus on East Palo Alto, instead of the actual person or murder. East Palo Alto might not have anything to do with this situation, so keep your comments where they belong, in San Mateo.

Obviously, if the person or person's involved were from EPA they had plenty chances to commit the crime in EPA, as David frequented EPA often with no problems. Think about that, he was loved and respected there so sorry, trying to "sneak" in a negative comment about people who live in EPA is obvious and unwarranted in this situation, but thanks for "sharing".

Like this comment
Posted by Observer
a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 22, 2010 at 10:42 am

I'm very glad the police are giving this so much attention and effort. I do seem to have missed the part in the article where 'emotions' are 'high'. I imagine they were, but I see nothing in the article to back this up. Was there an argument? Is the reader meant to imagine this for him or her self? Perhaps a more accurate headline is called for.

Like this comment
Posted by Babble
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 22, 2010 at 11:18 am

Is stream-of-consciousness talk or sound from a dying man usually referred to as "babble"?

Like this comment
Posted by I LOVE TO SHOP
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 23, 2010 at 8:08 pm

The week before I read of this tragedy, I watched a downloaded podcast of the Bill Moyers documentary of David Lewis. Filmed way before this horrible murder. I pass this on to anyone who will want to view a video of the man. What a terrible loss of a man up from the bottom to being a force for good.
Web Link

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