Lewis was hospitalized with what doctors described as “non-survivable head trauma” and died about a week later. The Clark County Medical Examiner’s Office concluded that the 17-year-old died of blunt-force trauma and classified his death as a homicide.
A short video of the beating that went viral on social media shows Lewis punching someone before a group of teenagers attacked him. Johansson told reporters that the video of the attack shows a “void in humanity.”
“The moment the battle is struck with that person, 10 subjects immediately swarm [Lewis]drag him to the ground and start kicking, punching and stomping on him,” Johansson said.
Eight teenagers were arrested Tuesday morning with the help of FBI agents, according to the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. The eight suspects were charged on suspicion of murder, Undersheriff Andrew Walsh said. Authorities are working to identify at least two other people believed to have been involved in the attack, Johansson said.
Police are pushing for prosecutors to charge teenagers as adults, Johansson said. If a 16-year-old or 17-year-old is charged with murder in Nevada, the case is moved to the adult system as part of a process called certification, state law says. Nevada judges can certify minors older than 14 as adults for crimes including murder, but it is not a given. Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that two of the teenagers arrested are 16 or older.
If charged and convicted of murder in Nevada, the teenagers each face a minimum of 25 years in prison under state law.
Lewis’ family did not immediately respond to a request for comment early Wednesday. The family wrote on a memorial website that their son “was a hero who tried to help a smaller child who was being bullied and 15 people attacked him in cowardly violence and our beloved son was killed!” The police have not stated whether 15 people were involved in the attack.
“We cannot yet release any information other than to say that we condemn violence as a means of resolving sociological conflicts, we believe that community members can coexist peacefully, and we love our son and all children with all our hearts!” the family wrote on the GoFundMe page it set up to start a fund in their son’s name.
The fight took place on the afternoon of Nov. 1 near Rancho High School, about seven miles northeast of the Las Vegas Strip. Lewis’ friend had agreed to a fight in an alley after school after incidents earlier this week in which his wireless headphones and possibly a vape pen were stolen, Johansson said. But as the teenagers came out, Lewis stepped in to defend his friend, according to police.
After Lewis took a swing, the video shows the teenagers “kicking, stomping and punching our victim Jonathan while he’s on the ground, not defending himself” until he’s unconscious, Johansson said. The 14-second video shared on social media shows a group of teenagers beating Lewis as others looked on.
“Oh my God,” one person says with a laugh, according to the video.
As the teenagers ran away, Lewis was carried by a bystander back to the high school, where staff performed CPR, police said. Authorities responded around 2:05 p.m., and Lewis was taken to University Medical Center of Southern Nevada.
The 17-year-old died on November 7.
At Tuesday’s news conference, Johansson was asked if authorities were investigating the incident as a possible hate crime since Lewis was white and most of the teenagers involved in the beating are black. Police said they do not believe it was a hate crime.
“Right now I have absolutely no evidence that this is a hate crime,” Johansson said. “It is a murder, which in my opinion is a very heinous crime in itself, but I have no evidence of a hate crime.”
Jonathan Lewis Sr., 38, of Austin, told the Review-Journal he was relieved arrests have been made in his son’s death.
“I urge the youth to use their collective voice to demand change, create a deep sense of community and do something with your power instead of enslaving yourselves to anger, rage and cowardly violence,” he said in a text message. .
Walsh, the undersheriff, urged parents not to “put their heads in the sand” and said they should assume their children have seen the video.
“Please talk to your children about it and explain – people need to know what is right and wrong and that this act was despicable,” he said. When asked about the suspects and the fatal beating, Walsh said, “Their actions have life-changing consequences.”