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Family of Black man shot while holding cellphone want murder trial for SWAT officer

DENVER (AP) — The family of a Black man holding a cellphone when he was fatally shot by a SWAT officer called Thursday for a murder trial for the officer following the public release of portions of body camera footage of the shooting.

Kilyn (KAI-lin) Lewis, 37, was shot as officers moved in to arrest him in the parking lot of a condo building in the Denver suburb of Aurora on May 23. The officers, who appear to emerge from unmarked vehicles, are heard on video shouting at him to get on the ground. After taking a few steps next to his car and putting his right hand behind his back, Lewis appears to surrender, raising his arms in the air.

He was holding what was later identified as a cellphone in his right hand, interim Police Chief Heather Morris said in a produced video released by police that includes portions of the body camera footage. Morris also pointed out that Lewis put his hand in his left pocket before raising his hands.

Just as Lewis is bending his legs, as if to get on the ground, an officer fired a single shot at Lewis. Lewis says, “I don't have nothing. I don't have nothing. I don't have nothing.”

The other officers did not fire at Lewis. An arrest warrant had been issued for Lewis after he was suspected of being involved in a May 5 shooting in Denver that injured a man, according to Morris and court documents.

Lewis' mother, LaRonda Jones, said the officer should be prosecuted just as anyone else would be and urged the local prosecutor and the state attorney general to uphold and enforce the law. But she said her son's “outright murder” was part of a bigger problem with police in Aurora, where another Black man, Elijah McClain, died in 2019 after being stopped by police while walking home from a store. Two paramedics and a police officer were convicted in his death.

“This is not just about one officer or one incident. It’s about a broken system that devalues Black lives," Jones said at a news conference with Lewis' father, wife and older brother and lawyers for the family.

Aurora police declined to comment beyond the chief's statements in the video, citing the ongoing investigations into whether the officer should be prosecuted and whether department policies were followed.

A working telephone number for the officer who shot Lewis could not be found after a search of an online database. A telephone and an email message left for the Aurora police's two police unions were not immediately returned.

One of the family's lawyers, Edward Hopkins, Jr., said Lewis was apparently caught off guard by seeing officers pointing rifles at him and yelling commands at him, which he compared to how a gang might approach someone.

Hopkins also criticized police, saying they released the video in a way that was the most favorable to officers in an effort to gain support from the public. Members of Lewis' family were allowed to see video of the shooting last week, he said.

“They wanted to start the conversation the way they wanted to,” he said of police.

Police did not immediately release the raw footage of the shooting in response to a records request.