DC man charged with 2nd-degree murder in fatal shooting of 13-year-old Karon Blake

A D.C. man, who fatally shot a 13-year-old who was reportedly breaking into cars, has been charged with second-degree murder after police say video evidence turned up discrepancies in the man’s account of what happened.

Jason Lewis, 41, of Northeast D.C. turned himself into police about 8 a.m. Tuesday, after authorities obtained an arrest warrant for second-degree murder while armed in the shooting death of Karon Blake.

The arrest warrant reveals, as Lewis fired in his direction, Blake repeatedly yelled “I am sorry,” followed by “Please don’t,” and “I am a kid” before collapsing.

Lewis, a longtime employee of the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation, appeared before a D.C. Superior Court judge Tuesday afternoon. Through his attorney, Lee A. Smith, Lewis pleaded not guilty, before the judge ordered him held without bond.

The shooting sparked a public outcry from some residents and activists who called for the shooter to be publicly identified and arrested in the days and weeks after the shooting.

“In this case, video evidence and hard work by our detectives was the key to piecing these events together,” said D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee, speaking at a news conference Tuesday.

Contee told reporters that Lewis initially told officers he only fired two shots, both at the teen who he said was running toward him as Lewis stood in the gate of his patio courtyard shortly before 4 a.m. on Jan. 7. Lewis told officers he went to his front courtyard of his townhome armed with a Smith and Wesson semi-automatic gun to investigate noises that he said sounded like someone trying to come into his home, according to the arrest warrant.

In fact, Contee said, surveillance video showed Lewis fired a first shot at a Kia Sportage, containing two other people who were with Blake that night that the police chief described as a “getaway car.” It was only after that first shot was fired that Blake, who was running toward the Kia, changed direction and began running toward Lewis, Contee said.

“Everything else that kind of unfolds is as a result of that initial shot that gets fired,” Contee said. “So whether Karon knew or didn’t know that a person was standing there with a gun who he was running at … I think that’s where things really unravel —  it was just the initial shot that was fired, that kind of put the chain of events into place.”

‘First aggressor’

In ordering him held without bond, D.C. Superior Court Magistrate Judge Judith Pipe said there was no evidence Blake was armed or stepped foot on Lewis’ property and since Lewis opened fire first, the evidence indicated he was the “first aggressor.”

In asking the judge to release Lewis from custody before his next appearance, Smith, the defense attorney, pointed out that Lewis called police to report the shooting and also performed CPR before authorities arrived. He said Lewis is a father of four with longstanding ties to the community and posed no danger to the community.

The judge called the shooting “an exceptional tragedy,” adding, “From all accounts, Mr. Lewis is an upstanding individual. He has done a lot in his life to benefit the community and those around him.”

But given that the shooting took place outside his home, she said she didn’t think releasing him to home confinement could assure the safety of the community.

A man shot and killed 13-year-old Karon Blake in the District’s Brookland neighborhood on Jan. 7, 2023. (Courtesy Sean Long)

Warrant lays out detailed timeline

The arrest warrant laid out a detailed timeline of events leading up the shooting based on footage from numerous surveillance cameras from the neighborhood.

Among other things, Contee said the evidence showed Blake and the two other young people in the Kia Sportage, who have not yet been identified or located, were, in fact, breaking into cars that night.

Cameras captured the Kia Sportage, which was stolen from elsewhere in Northeast D.C. the night before, showed up in Quincy Street in D.C.’s Brookland neighborhood about 3:37 a.m. on Jan. 7, before backing into an alley. Two people got out of the car and approached some cars with flashlights in hand, including an Audi A8L, which belonged to Lewis.

At 3:39 a.m. Lewis appeared at his courtyard gate. He told police he shouted “Hey, what are y’all doing?”

Photos taken from surveillance cameras included as evidence in the arrest warrant charging Jason Lewis with second-degree murder while armed. (Courtesy court documents filed in Superior Court of the District of Columbia)

At that point, surveillance video shows one of the other teens fled toward the Kia Sportage in the alley. The Kia began reversing, and cameras captured a flash consistent with the firing of a gun.

Just a few seconds later, cameras captured Blake running toward the alley and then changing direction, running toward the sidewalk.

Some of the surveillance videos cited as evidence are Blink home-security cameras from the adjacent address to Lewis’ home and they capture his actions in detail, including the moment he raised his left arm in the direction of the alley to the east of his home and fired a single gunshot.

After the first shot, there is a pause of about three seconds, then the audio indicates a few more shots are fired. The camera shows Lewis moving backward into the patio area as he fired the last two shots.

It’s unclear from the arrest warrant exactly how far away Blake was from Lewis at the time he was shot.

Photos taken from surveillance cameras included as evidence in the arrest warrant charging Jason Lewis with second-degree murder while armed. (Courtesy court documents filed in Superior Court of the District of Columbia)

Council member says he still has questions

Speaking at the news conference Tuesday, Contee said, “There was no confrontation between them and no real words exchanged between them.”

Responding to questions about why it took so long to bring charges in the case, Contee said it took time to fully investigate the shooting.

“We wanted to be methodical,” Contee said. “We wanted to be correct and not make any assumptions. We wanted to follow the evidence. There was somewhat of a self-defense claim that needed to be overcome … And we wanted to get to the bottom of this.”

In a statement released after the announcement of Lewis’ arrest, Ward 5 Council member Zachary Parker said he continues to have questions about the handling of the case.

“It took almost one month to press charges, during which the Ward 5 community was given few answers, allowing misinformation and speculation to spread,” Parker said. “Community members understandably have questions about whether justice would have come swifter if Karon’s background and circumstances were different, or if Jason Lewis was not an employee of the District of Columbia. In addition, the Metropolitan Police Department must account for the perceived preferential treatment provided to Jason Lewis in this case.”

At a meeting a few days after the shooting, hundreds of community members packed the nearby Turkey Thicket Recreation Center in D.C. to demand transparency into the investigation.

“I don’t understand why y’all let that man still go free,” said Sean Long, who said he was Blake’s grandfather.

Family reacts to arrest

Despite what he called a delay, Long said he is thankful for this development in the case.

“I’m just saying thank you, thank you, thank you for the whole family.” Long said.

He said the family wants to see justice for his grandson and that they plan to see this case through.

This is just the beginning and we’ve got a long road ahead of us,” Long said.

When he learned about the new details surrounding the shooting of Blake, Long said even if his grandson was breaking into cars, that should not have resulted in his death.

“When you mess with cars, or you mess with somebody’s property, they don’t have the right to shoot you or kill you,” Long said. “You’re supposed to call 911,” he said.

Also upsetting, he said, was learning Blake told the man he was a child before he was killed.

“The man still didn’t care nothing about it and just shot him anyway,” Long said.

Long was among several family members who spoke to a crowd last month at a community meeting on the shooting. He said he appreciates the outpouring of support for his family. He also said he would urge the community to keep on coming out, beyond this shooting.

“Let’s come out and stick together all the time and let’s stop this black and black crime and stop all this crazy stuff going on on the streets,” Long said.

WTOP’s Mike Murillo, Megan Cloherty and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Jack Moore

Jack Moore joined WTOP.com as a digital writer/editor in July 2016. Previous to his current role, he covered federal government management and technology as the news editor at Nextgov.com, part of Government Executive Media Group.

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