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James Edward Lewis Jr, 44
Springfield, Missouri
January 01, 2017

Agencies: Springfield Police Department - Missouri

Last updated: 8 months ago

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Police say a man died after being shot by officers early Sunday morning in north Springfield.

Officers opened fire on the man a little after 3:20 a.m. at Silver Springs Park after they say he displayed a handgun, according to a news release from the police department.

Police did not release the man's name Sunday afternoon, saying his family members had not yet been notified.

Police were initially called to the park at 1100 N. Hampton Ave. at 3:20 a.m., the release says, in reference to a man who was armed with a gun and was threatening to kill his wife.

The release says the man was "non-compliant" when officers arrived.

Officers tried to detain the man using less lethal weapons, the release says, but those efforts were not successful.

Relatives of a man shot and killed by Springfield police say he had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and struggled to stay on his medication.

Jeannie Harper said she wonders whether her son, James Lewis, was in crisis when officers shot him Sunday at a Springfield park, The Springfield News-Leader reports. The 44-year-old, who was going through a separation from his longtime girlfriend, died later at a hospital.

Police said in a news release that Lewis displayed a handgun during a confrontation and that less-lethal weapons weren’t effective.

Lewis’ sister, Ann Lewis, said one of her brother’s biggest struggles was staying on his medication, because his paranoia would cause him to think the medication was bad.

“Him living with mental illness and not taking his medicine led to a whole vicious cycle, a cycle of homelessness, a cycle of self-medication with street drugs, which in turn — when you have those things involved along with the symptoms of mental illness — is when you find yourself being in trouble with the law,” Ann Lewis said.

A search of online court records shows James Lewis was charged in 2015 with misdemeanor domestic assault, property damage and violating an order of protection. The family said he was also hospitalized that year after trying to commit suicide.

Tyrone Lewis said his brother was “the nicest, most approachable person to talk with” unless he was having a mental illness-triggered episode, which could sometimes make him “not himself.” He wonders if Springfield police had the necessary training to deal with his brother.

“My first reaction is that he was probably having an episode,” Tyrone Lewis said. “And usually in his episodes he is boastful and he says a lot of stuff, but it’s all bark. He doesn’t hurt people. I’m thinking: ‘Why did they do this? What was going on?'”

The Springfield Police Department has been working to put officers through a 40-hour program that teaches them to better recognize and deal with mentally ill individuals. About 20 percent of the force had gone through the program as of September. Meanwhile, new recruits are going through an 8-hour training program called Mental Health First Aid.

It’s unclear whether the officers who shot James Lewis on Sunday had gone through the training.