“People that I am taking to in Brooklyn just do not believe the case brought against Chanel Lewis.” community and union activist Daniel Goodine told the Amsterdam News. “They are telling me ‘It ain’t him.’”
While tabloid headlines slam the accused 20-year-old of being a “monster,” a “savage” and a “demon” in the horrific Howard Beech rape and murder case, there seems to persistent doubt in parts of the Black community, particularly in East New York and Brownsville.
Although he waived his appearance in Queens State Supreme Court Tuesday, Lewis is charged with second-degree murder and was given an April court date.
“The feeling about Chanel Lewis in the neighborhood is that people are doubtful about his involvement in the Howard jogger case,” said East New York-based community activist A.T. Mitchell, founder and executive director of Man Up, Inc. “It is mixed in the different neighborhoods. It is definitely racially divided between East New York and Howard Beach. Without question though the rhetoric has been outrageous and racist, and that rubs people the wrong way. The community just wants facts. We have seen these trials and convictions in the media many times before. For example, the Central Park Five, and then last year those teens in Brownsville. We are urging people again to not rush to judgement, based on what is being reported as evidence. We must wait until the trial at least. Meanwhile people in the community remain doubtful that Mr. Lewis was the one involved in this terrible case.”
Queens District Attorney Richard Brown’s office announced earlier this month that Lewis had been “charged with murder in the strangulation death of Karina Vetrano, 30, as she jogged alone on a Spring Creek park trail near her Howard Beach home Aug. 2, 2016, when she was confronted by Lewis who attacked and strangled her.”
The statement continued, “Ms. Vetrano’s body was discovered by her father later that day lying in a marshy area, approximately 15 feet from a trail near 161st Avenue and 78th Street in the park.”
Brown thanked cops and his staff, declaring that, “the person allegedly responsible for her brutal murder finally has been brought to justice.” He added, “At this time, he is being charged with intentional murder in the second degree, although the investigation is continuing and a grand jury may consider additional criminal charges when the case is presented to them.”
Although almost everyone in conversation starts from the premise that only a couple of people know what really happened that fateful day, at least in the Black community there is a repeated conversation raising questions over the arrest and charges against Lewis.
The mainstream media’s immediate “conviction” of the young man is polar opposite to what many on Black social media are stating. Questions have been asked for weeks about the case against the young man.
Former school principal Richard Lewis, 70, insisted that his “humble” son “would never have gone to do what they say he has done.” Lewis told the media that his son has “never had a fight in his 20 years.” He added that his son was hospitalized last year after being assaulted and robbed by three attackers.
Phil and Cathy Vetrano have been very vocal in the press, and Lewis expressed sympathy for their loss, but he stated, “I’m sure that [my son] would not be a part of that.”
Even though NYPD officers told the press that Lewis’ DNA was found at the crime scene, and Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said Lewis “made detailed, incriminating statements and admissions,” Attorney Roger Wareham told the Amsterdam News, “Before People jump to a conclusion and deny Chanel Lewis the presumption of innocence simply because he is Black, accused and convicted in the main media, let us remember the Central Park Five.”
“I raised my son to be a God-fearing man and to respect life,” said Veta Lewis. She added that he son “would not hurt anybody.” Alluding to news reported issues, she intimated that he may have some psychological challenges. “My son has mental health problems and needs help,” she said. “He’s not a criminal.”
“We do not want a repeat of what happened with the now exonerated Central Park Five —falsely accused African -American and Latino teens who spent years in prison for something they did not do,” said East New York Assemblyman Charles Barron. “Neither do we want what was almost a similar case last year in Brownsville with some young men already tried and convicted in the press for something they did not do. These mainly minors had their names and ages plastered all over the press. It was the persistence of the community which made investigators take a closer look at this case. Is every possible suspect been looked at in this case? All we are saying is let us be sure of all the real facts, not conjecture. We do not need another trial in public, not a cover-up, not another rush to judgement to satisfy a certain blood lust. If someone is guilty they must definitely face the consequences, but if they are innocent let us strive to prove that, too.”
As reports surface that GoFundMe and Fundly have shut down sites geared toward raising monies for legal fees for the young man who had been living with his mom and sisters, Barron stated, “What happened to the young lady, Karina Vetrano, on that fateful day in August is horrible and my condolences go out to her family. What I also found horrible is the media coverage of the suspect, Chanel Lewis. Mr. Lewis is being put on trial and convicted in newspapers that casted him as a ‘demon’ and ‘monster’ long before he could step a foot in a courtroom.”
The Assemblyman, whose office has spoken to Lewis’ family, added, “This narrative is all too familiar for young Black men, from the innocent Black teens in the Central Park Five case, to the Black teens falsely accused of rape in the Brownsville playground incident. Both were vilified in the media. In comparison to the white racist teen Dylan Roof, the shooter of the nine Black parishioners in Charleston, S.C., who was taken to Burger King after being arrested, Mr. Lewis is being vilified and convicted by the media.”
Barron concluded, “This case must be thoroughly investigated and vetted before we have a lynching of character by racist overzealous media outlets that put selling their papers over the age-old adage of innocent until proven guilty.”