A suburban West Palm Beach man has been arrested following charges that he fired a weapon at a PBSO deputy during a foot chase. 30-year-old Dexter Latrell Lewis is charged with attempted first-degree murder, which in Florida carries the same penalty as first-degree murder. There were no injuries in the shooting. The judge presiding over his case ordered Lewis held without bail.
The deputy was responding to a domestic disturbance call when Lewis fled the apartment on foot. The deputy took cover as Lewis allegedly fired several shots as he was fleeing. Some details concerning the domestic disturbance that triggered the event have been redacted from the arrest report. However, witnesses told the officer that Lewis was armed.
At one point during the chase, Lewis apparently retreated near a fence and waited for the deputy to approach. When the deputy did approach, Lewis fired two more shots causing the deputy to seek cover. Lewis then jumped the fence, according to the deputy, and fired one more shot in the air.
Lewis was a resident at an apartment community. Members of the community told police that Lewis came home intoxicated and then brandished his weapon at a fellow resident who was playing a video game. The residents told him to stop, but Lewis would not. It was then that he attempted to fight multiple people, but he drew his weapon whenever anyone got close enough to hit him. When deputies approached, Lewis allegedly fired a shot at one of the residents before he fled on foot. Multiple witnesses fingered Lewis as the individual who fired at the deputy.
In the law, there is a concept called mens rea or “guilty mind.” Essentially, mens rea must be proven for certain allegations to stick. These include first-degree murder, second-degree murder, fraud, and several other types of charges. In other words, if the prosecution cannot prove mens rea or the intent to cause harm, the case isn’t there.
An attorney for Lewis is likely to claim that the man was suffering from a psychotic episode at the time of the incident and did not, therefore, have a guilty mind. In fact, the entire case will hinge on whether or not the prosecution can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Lewis was really trying to harm anyone. While insanity defenses don’t work very often, a defendant who is suffering from severe psychotic symptoms and didn’t injure anyone may be just the right fit for an insanity defense. For all we know, Lewis could have been firing warning shots or the pistol could have been firing blanks. The police have yet to recover the weapon, adding intrigue to the case.
It is likely that a defense attorney will be able to plead this down to reckless endangerment and get Lewis into a facility where he can learn to cope with his psychiatric symptoms in a way that doesn’t place himself and others in danger.
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