Police have suspect in killing of David Lewis

Shooting victim was East Palo Alto man Lewis, 54, a major figure in community drug intervention efforts in prisons

Police have a suspect in the "targeted" killing of East Palo Alto drug-intervention leader David Lewis, as well as a description of a vehicle at the Hillsdale Mall when Lewis was fatally shot in the back, according to sources.

East Palo Alto and San Mateo police have scheduled a press conference for 11:30 a.m. today to provide additional information about the case.

Close friends of Lewis, 54, of East Palo Alto, said there could be no reason for his killing except for the greed of drug dealers who are possibly angered by his success in getting people off the streets -- affecting their incomes.

Lewis was highly successful in getting people off drugs and that means less money for dealers, friends said.

Lewis was shot and killed in the parking lot of San Mateo's Hillsdale Shopping Center Wednesday in what police described as a "targeted" killing.

He had long been active in drug intervention programs and services for released prisoners. He co-founded the "Free at Last" program in the early 1990s and received national recognition for his efforts.

"It's hard to believe that this would happen to a person of good quality like that," said Doris Taylor, a close friend of Lewis for many years, who described him as being like a godfather to her daughter.

Lewis had recently returned from a fishing trip with one of Taylor's daughters and his fishing license was still in her purse Wednesday. Her daughters are devastated by Lewis' death, she said.

"He was the closest thing to their dad that they had," she said of Lewis' relationship to her children, now grown.

Taylor, a receptionist at the Palo Alto Weekly, said she did not know why anyone would target Lewis, except perhaps because he had been successful in getting drugs off the streets.

"Is it because things are so bad now? Is it because he was messing with their money? Getting people off the street -- that means the money stops circulating. That's the reality, though. If greed is getting to that level, it's the end of the world," Taylor said.

Lewis was shot once in the back at about 5:40 p.m. Wednesday in the west parking lot of the mall, 60 31st St., according to police. He appears to have been targeted and that it was not a random killing, police said.

He was taken by ambulance to a local trauma center, where he died, police reported. Officers arrived on the scene within minutes of the shooting but were initially unable to find a suspect.

Police cordoned off a crime scene in the parking lot, but business inside the mall was not disrupted.

According to reports, police have a suspect. Witnesses were at the scene and provided a description of the car.

Lewis was a community outreach specialist with the San Mateo County AIDS Program. He also was a facilitator for Gordon Graham and Company in the Framework for Change video curriculum.

Colleagues at Free At Last said they were shocked by his death.

"He was a very great friend to everyone. He did an amazing job -- a great job -- not only in East Palo Alto but for the county," said Saul Barrajas, an outreach worker. Memorial plans were not yet known, he said.

Lewis was featured in the Bill Moyers documentary, "Circle of Recovery," and spoke on a national speakers circuit.

He received the California Peace Prize in 1995 and the Positive Image Award in 1992.

In a Sept. 23, 1998, interview in the Palo Alto Weekly, Lewis reflected on his life as a former inmate and how the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake shook him up and launched him onto a new path:

"I've been in maximum security prisons for 17 years and have seen some ugly things," Lewis said. "None of which affected me. But that (earthquake) did. I don't really know why."

Lewis remembers thinking about his four children, wondering what was happening to them. He also recalls his fear of dying in a cage.

"I just had this overwhelming feeling of, 'I don't want to be in this situation anymore,'" he said.

When his prison term ended two months later, he decided to get on with his life -- not his past life, but a new one. These days, he's chairman of the board of Free at Last, a drug treatment center in East Palo Alto.

When he's not attending to board duties, he works as an HIV and substance abuse counselor. He travels the country speaking in communities and in prisons, hoping to guide young lives down a path different from the one he chose.

"I feel like I am a positive role model now," Lewis said. "I feel like I am making a huge difference and am impacting so many young lives."

-- Palo Alto Weekly staff and Bay City News Service

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3 people like this
Posted by S.S.
a resident of another community
on Jun 10, 2010 at 2:20 pm

I was a client at Free At Last in the late 90's. I remember David very well. He helped so many people. He will be missed by many people as well as me. I hope they catch the man who killed David Lewis. God bless his family!

3 people like this
Posted by angel
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jun 10, 2010 at 3:12 pm

My prayers are with you Ms. Cora.

3 people like this
Posted by Marilee
a resident of another community
on Jun 10, 2010 at 4:21 pm

As I pulled out David's phone number this morning to ask him to once again come give a motivational talk with my students at a Contra Costa County Jail program I received a call from a another teacher telling me of David's death. I was in shock and still am. Some of my students know him and have been encouraged over the years by his love. He turned his life around. And he shared what he got with others over and over again. I will miss him as many others will. You have touch my life and the life of so many. Thank you David Lewis for your contribution. You are a hero now and forever more,

Marilee King

3 people like this
Posted by Louise Vance
a resident of another community
on Jun 10, 2010 at 11:59 pm

I interviewed David for a video I directed for Centerforce called Inside/Out. He made a tremendous lasting impact on me. His strength and dedication to helping others make a good life for themselves was just really exceptional. It was an honor to spend time with him. The world, and his family, have lost a great man. My heart goes out to all who loved him.

3 people like this
Posted by J.F.
a resident of another community
on Jun 11, 2010 at 10:08 pm

I was Davids little brother in new day, day top. He helped me a lot, he even chased me down Polugs st. and brought me back and I am still sober today 20 years later. Thank you David,you will be missed but not forgotten. God bless you and your family.


3 people like this
Posted by N.
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jun 11, 2010 at 10:10 pm

A giant walked among us and now he's gone... May his legacy live on. David, dearest, you are free at last.

3 people like this
Posted by John the Man
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 12, 2010 at 7:29 am

You have NO idea how relieved people in Palo Alto are that they have (apparently) caught the man responsible for Lewis' murder. Because anything that happens in EPA or involves 'those people' (EPA residents) is SURE to spill over into Palo Alto and wreck havoc onto their fair city.

3 people like this
Posted by MISSING~U
a resident of another community
on Jun 12, 2010 at 11:15 am

Dear DAVID before you left you left us with hope for a brighter future for all lost souls to step up to the plate....NOW!!!!!!
Be the PERSON you were ment to be and for OTHERS to SEE. It can be done....turning your LIFE around...but how about NOT going down that road as DAVID did that for all of you. STOP with the POOR ME and get out and help the communities stay SAFE....DO ANYTHING to STOP the silly GANGS that harm OTHERS!!!!!MAY DAVID LEWIS know hundreds LOVED him not just for what he did in the end but also that he WAS A CHILD OF GODS and now he will remain in our HEARTS and SOULS FOREVER and EVER.....I will try to do BETTER today in DAVID'S HONOR.....

3 people like this
Posted by skytommy
a resident of another community
on Jun 13, 2010 at 9:28 am

god bless david a strong man in recovery

3 people like this
Posted by RSJ
a resident of another community
on Jun 14, 2010 at 9:28 pm

I knew David Lewis from grammar school. He was in my sixth grade class. He was the class clown but a lovable person. Sorry he had to go through the things he did but all in all it made him a better person.God was ready to call him home. He did a great work when he turned his life around and gave back to the community. He will be deeply missed and my prayers goes to his mother and his family. May his spirit live on.God bless his soul.He's in God care now.

3 people like this
Posted by A recovering Addicy
a resident of another community
on Jun 15, 2010 at 3:08 pm

There I was. Broken. In my first month of recovery. I attended an N/a meeting. The speaker was Mr. David Lewis. I heard him. Scared, and during a break in the meeting, I asked him to be my sponsor. He reached in his wallet and gave me a gold business card and told me to give him a call in 90 days. 90 days! That was like an eternity to me at the time. Needless to say, I did not stay clean. I now have 3 years and 8 months clean. Selah. To you, Mr. Lewis, it was a sheer honor and a priviledge to meet you, to hear you and to see you. It's men like you who have truley made a difference in the lives of the innumerable. Your work is done here, rest in true peace, but you work shall carry on, my brother. I love you, and will miss you.

3 people like this
Posted by starvel J.
a resident of another community
on Jun 15, 2010 at 7:25 pm

I remember when David first got to Soladad Prison. I myself thought he was a person with one hellava nick name. I too sufferd and filled a prison cage along with David.I also found my way trying to let who ever wanted to listen, how drugs, alchohol, and I, kicked my life around for the longest time. I did land a counseling job in, of all places back in prison.I had the pleasure then to experance some of my old friends recovery work as a free drug and alchohol counsler. Like it was said, I was unable to get intouch with David then because he was all over the place. This was in the year of our LORD 2001.After hearing about David and becoming even more motivated, I dug-in and went back to school and now I just received my Masters Degree. I said all that to say . I just recently run into a friend of David's and he put me up on Davids progress, which made made me excited to want to see my old friend again, and this time we both would be two different people with the same understanding. But I didn't get a chance, because God called David home. I'll miss you OLD Friend.

3 people like this
Posted by Roger H.
a resident of another community
on Jun 16, 2010 at 11:44 am

I just heard the news of David's death. I never met him. However, I am an Addictions Specialist on the East Coast and have used two recovery videos in which David was a part. One was about of group of recovering addicts. When David spoke it was simple and heart-felt. In the other, David was one of the presenters for a cognitive recovery program called Breaking Barriers. Again, simple, straight-forward and heart felt. I have admired the man from a distance and I mourn his passing. God must have a lot of people in heaven seeking recovery to have called him so early.

3 people like this
Posted by burn burn
a resident of another community
on Jun 21, 2010 at 12:19 am

Wow I honestly find it foolish for anyone to think that Funky rat was killed because he got too many people off drugs. I have known this man for years and he was a good brother. May Allah, continue to bless David, to me he was Funky Rat, a down to earth brother. Perhaps some of you will pick up where he left off. He and I shared ideas whenever we spoke. Some of us gave back to the community without seeking anything in return, for we know that Allah, is the best planner. to his followers, he understood that if it's only through adversities that we as human being are to grow strong, than may Allah, bless us to endeavor to endure our circumstances. Rest in peace Kind brother as you done what Allah, placed you on this earth for. Salaam! Be mindful that the height of stupidity is to allow your impaired perception of reality to become your reality.

4 people like this
Posted by monzell Lewis Seattle
a resident of Jackson Park
on Jul 17, 2010 at 8:11 pm

I work with David doing Breaking Barriers across us and prison and we had great times. he and his wife were great at this work. Im committed and i know Grodon Graham is to keeping his dream alive. peace unto you

3 people like this
Posted by J Rillos
a resident of another community
on Sep 9, 2011 at 5:43 pm

I miss David so much. Time has not healed the wound of the loss of this wonderful man. I will continue to spread his message of vicotry and change.

5 people like this
Posted by frank ruggirello
a resident of another community
on Nov 19, 2014 at 10:28 pm

I was refferd to mr louis from a acquaintance.
After a horrable relationship with a woman,feeling like lost soul living on streets and 20years of cocaine addiction,jail,and tragic incidents. Mr louis was my councler and I want to say thank you for being the first person to ever have an effect on my life. He was the man that saved my life threw one on one councling, he would listen to what I . Had to say and never judged me or tried to tell me what to do. he offerd hiexperience with mr louis and advice and changed my life. After telling my experience to families and friends I meet someone who was willing to take mr louis counceling I went to look up a number and found out he was murdered. I was devastated by the loss of mr louis. I want to say god bless his family,and to his daughters . U had the best father n the whole world. I hope and pray the person who took mr louis life will get what he has comming. Before meeting mr louis I was filled with hate and rage and anger eveyday bitter with society. If it wasnt for dave I wouldnt be the man I am today and have been sence mine and daves councling. I was born in 1956 in November on the 23rd. Not noing we shared the same birthday only one year apart. The person w was trying to get help from mr louis for was a lot like me and I knew dave would be the perfect person in this situation after my experience with mr louis. Me and dave talked about our . Lifes and he was alawys honest real and positive. going day to day thinking about how dave helped me and many others no mater what happens today I can pray for someone and help people who are in need knowing I could call mr louis anytime and know that nno matter what, he would put down what he was doing to help or offer his wisdom and knowledge.haveing my friend looking up mr louis and finding out what had happend I felt like the world lost one special individual. Mr louis will be missed and loved. May he rest in peace. God bless his family and kids. When I was informed about the loss of mr louis I was angry and upset and wated to know how god could take someone so special the human race. I wanted to kill the person responsible for the loss of mr louis but I know dave would not want me to do that.

Sencerly frank

.ps. dave

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Bailey Park

on Sep 25, 2017 at 5:09 pm

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