Decatur, Georgia (Herald & Review) — Dramatic body cam footage shows the moment Decatur police say one of their officers had to draw and fire his service firearm to defend himself from an armed suspect who had just shot at him.
Both the suspect, 47-year-old Springfield man Gregory W. Lewis, and the policeman, third shift patrol officer Michael Lawary, emerged uninjured from the early Friday morning confrontation in a Decatur neighborhood.
Lewis is currently held in the Macon County Jail on preliminary charges of aggravated discharge of a firearm at a peace officer and being a felon in possession of a weapon. He was also charged with possession of a stolen vehicle and his bail was set at $2.14 million.
Details emerge of gunfire exchange between accused car thief and Decatur police
Lawary, a 10-year department veteran, is currently on paid leave while the department conducts an internal inquiry into the circumstances of the shooting.
Police Chief Jim Getz said Illinois law mandates an investigation by an outside agency in cases where the use of deadly force results in a death. He said the department, which calls on the Illinois State Police to conduct such inquiries, takes that a step further and calls in the state police in any use of force situations where a person is wounded.
In the Lewis incident, where no injuries were involved and having already reviewed body cam footage, Getz said a careful internal investigation was sufficient to determine whether Lawary acted properly.
“In this case I didn’t (use outside investigators) because it was on a body cam and it (the footage) supported the officer’s statement of events,” Getz added.
Decatur man who denies beating girlfriend, now accused of drugging and raping her, police say
The footage shows Lawary approaching Lewis after police responded to an address on West Cerro Gordo Street. Police said Lewis had fired his gun there earlier and a terrified resident had called in saying the man was trying to smash his way into their home.
Lawary is heard yelling “Freeze! Police!” before the sound of gunshots and the officer rapidly returning fire. He then yells at Lewis repeatedly to get on the ground before Lewis eventually complies.
Lewis can be heard crying “they shot me” but he was not wounded in the exchange of gunfire.
Getz said the department has arranged for Lawary to have access to counseling because he said any time an officer is forced to draw and fire his service weapon results in tremendous mental stress.
“That is a very traumatic event for an officer to go through and so we want to make sure they get counselling during their time off, just to make sure they are ready to come back to work,” Getz added.
The police chief said that, in Decatur at least, it is still relatively rare for an officer to have to use deadly force. “We’ve got 30-year officers who have never had to shoot their firearm other than in training,” he added.
“I’ve been here more than 21 years and, in that time, I’ve had to shoot a dog one time but, other than that, I’ve never had to use my firearm on duty.”
Getz said the dog incident involved a pitbull that attacked him when he was a member of the SWAT team during a drug raid. “The dog wanted to take a chunk out of me but, even then, you feel bad about it because the dog is just protecting its property,” added Getz.
Sworn affidavits about the arrest of Lewis said he was being sought by police after being accused of jumping into a running truck parked outside a gas station on Eldorado Street and driving off in the vehicle.
Officers responded to that incident at 5:45 a.m. and, within minutes, got the call from the frightened homeowner on nearby West Cerro Gordo Street.
Some 140 Decatur police officers were equipped with body cameras in a $300,000 program toward the end of 2020. Getz welcomed the camera deployment and, in a Herald & Review story from August, said: “Our goal is to be as transparent as possible. We’ve got nothing to hide.”
Please note: This content carries a strict local market embargo. If you share the same market as the contributor of this article, you may not use it on any platform.